point the way for St. Louis.
CLEVELAND REACHING OUT
How do you tell somebody about your city if they're not here? The Internet helps.
The web is a big piece of Global Cleveland's strategy to put their city on migration map. The two-year-old agency is launching a social media campaign and online portal designed to help potential residents understand the city better.
"It's really going to be a one-stop shop, everything I'd want to know about what life here is like," said Joy Roller, Global Cleveland's president.
Global Cleveland is targeting not just immigrants but also "boomerang" migrants who moved away, and others. Still, newcomers from abroad are a big piece of the pie. Global Cleveland has launched programs aimed at boosting the region's Latino and Asian populations, in the hopes that they'll draw more friends and family over time.
"Really it's been building communication tools for people who are already here," Roller said. "To send out to people who might want to come here."
And they're trying to tackle one of the trickiest things for anyone moving to a new town: finding a job. Last fall the organization sent a staffer to a job fair in Puerto Rico to recruit college students for companies in Cleveland. This spring they've gone virtual, hosting online job fairs for medical and IT employers. They advertised widely, Roller said, and got wide results. The IT job fair drew applicants from 25 countries.
DOOR TO DOOR IN DETROIT
Detroit has been at this a little longer, long enough to see what the challenges are.
The four-year-old Global Detroit program has made a big push to keep more of Michigan's 23,000 international college students in the state after they graduate. Despite the state's well-documented economic woes, said director Steve Tobocman, many of the graduates would like to.
"Getting them to stay in Michigan hasn't been a tough sell," he said. "Getting companies to look at the opportunities is a continuing challenge."
Even with some industries facing a shortage of skilled workers, it can be hard to get corporate recruiters to focus on international students, Tobocman said. They're bombarded not just with job applicants but with similar groups trying to help veterans, older workers, people with disabilities. Breaking through takes a lot of door-to-door relationship building.
"It's shoe leather," he said.
They've also learned that programs that help immigrants can help other people, too. Global Detroit runs a micro-finance program that trains and lends to small businesses in several city neighborhoods. It's geared to serve immigrants but is open to all. Six months in, 85 of the program's 100 graduates have been U.S.-born African-Americans.
"We're not hitting our metrics with the immigrant community, but that's OK," he said. "This helps make the case that the strategy we're pursuing is a universal one."
PLUGGING IN TO PHILADELPHIA
Maybe no city has enjoyed a bigger immigrant-fueled rebound than Philadelphia. Like St. Louis, the City of Brotherly Love had endured decades of emptying out. But by 2010, thanks largely to foreign-born newcomers, that had changed. The city was growing again.
"We had 60 years of losing population," said Amanda Bergson-Shilock, outreach director at the decade-old Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians. "If it hadn't been for immigrants it would have been 65."
Many of those immigrants didn't initially set out for Philadelphia. Three-fourths of foreign-born residents in parts of Pennsylvania the Welcoming Center has studied first lived someplace else in the U.S. Cities that offer a higher quality of life for less money can hold appeal over crowded gateway cities.
"Immigrants are often pretty flexible," she said. "When you've moved from Sudan to New York, moving from New York to Philadelphia is pretty minor."
But, she said, it takes more than smiles and a festival to make newcomers stick in a new town. Helping them plug into opportunities is essential. That means help with jobs, housing, school for the children, higher education. And it helps to provide those services in the neighborhoods where immigrants -- and everyone else -- lives, not just some downtown office building.
Do that, Bergson-Shilock said, and people will find their way to any city.
"The immigrant grapevine is a pretty powerful thing," she said. "If someone moves to Philadelphia and someone helps him build a life here, other people will hear about that."
(c)2013 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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