Community | Entrepreneurship | Opinion

Celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month

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New Research Documents Immigrant Contributions to Michigan’s Largest Companies.

June is Immigrant Heritage Month and Global Detroit, the nonprofit that I run, joined other immigrant economic development initiatives across the Rust Belt to celebrate this event. Immigrant Heritage Month is a nationwide effort coordinated by Welcome.us to honor our shared American heritage. Global Detroit chose to mark the celebration with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and the Detroit City Council at a City of Detroit naturalization ceremony held at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.

A century ago, Detroit and the State of Michigan were home to large numbers of new immigrants seeking the land of opportunity. Their innovative, entrepreneurial, and industrious spirit formed the backbone of Michigan’s economy over the last century. Their companies and labor provided the highest middle-class standard of living the world has ever know. And we should not forget these contributions because embracing immigration can once again be a critical piece of a prosperous economic future.

We used this event to release new data compiled by the Partnership for a New American Economy, in conjunction with the Welcoming Economies (WE) Global Network, that underscores immigrants’ profound historical impact on American industry, especially in the Rust Belt. Nationally, more than 40% of 2011’s Fortune 500 companies were founded by a “New American” (defined for this purpose as an immigrant or the child of an immigrant). These companies employ 10 million people worldwide, and have combined annual revenues of $4.2 trillion, an amount greater than the GDP of every country in the world but the U.S., China, and Japan.

The WE Global Network is a collection of local economic and community development initiatives across a ten state Rust Belt region that welcome, retain, and empower immigrant communities as valued contributors to the region’s shared prosperity. WE Global Network embraces the following core values:  Immigrant communities are central to expanding economic opportunity and revitalizing the entire region;
welcoming immigrants into the economic and social fabric of a region helps
 to make that region more socially vibrant for everyone; and regional economic development initiatives can play a role not just in attracting
immigrants, but also in retaining them and in enhancing their role in the community’s economic and social fabric.

The newly-released research centers on the impact that immigration has had on WE Global states (NY, PA, OH, MI, IN, IL, MO, IA, MN, and WI). Ninety-four (94) of the 2011 Fortune 500 companies (or 18.8 percent) were companies headquartered in the WE Global region and were founded by “New Americans,” defined as an immigrant or child of an immigrant. These 94 companies represent 45 percent of all the Fortune 500 companies in the WE Global footprint (94 out of 206 companies).

Moreover, of the 205 Fortune 500 companies nationally that were founded by New Americans, 45 percent are located in the ten-state WE Global region (94 out of the 205 companies).

This research is truly astounding. To think that nearly half of the Midwest’s Fortune 500 have an immigrant heritage, that is certainly something to celebrate as part of Immigrant Heritage Month. Global Detroit’s efforts to commemorate the economic contributions of Michigan’s immigrants were mirrored across the Rust Belt as other members of the Welcoming Economies Global Network (WE Global) recognized Immigrant Heritage Month.

Steve Tobocman
Steve Tobocman has spent the past three years spearheading Global Detroit, a regional economic revitalization strategy for the Detroit area focused on immigration and global connections. Steve is the Managing Partner of New Solutions Group, a mission-driven consulting firm that develops smart, innovative, and collaborative solutions that often challenge old paradigms that often restrain success and opportunity. From 2003-2008, Steve served as the State Representative from Michigan 12th State House District in southwestern Detroit, one of the state’s largest immigrant communities. In his last term, Steve served as the Majority Floor Leader, the second-ranking position in the House. During his time in the Michigan Legislature, Steve spearheaded efforts to protect immigrants from predatory immigrant service providers and wrote one of the nation’s strong consumer protection laws for immigrants, the Michigan Immigration Clerical Act. He also championed a variety of community economic development policies. Currently, Steve also splits his time with Global Detroit by co-directing the Michigan Political Leadership Program at Michigan State University, as well as the Michigan Foreclosure Task Force, a 200-member organization that works to fight the foreclosure crisis in Michigan. He also has served as the Interim Director for the Community Development Advocates of Detroit, the Detroit trade association for community development. Follow him @GlobalDET.