Monday, June 25, 2007

Athens of the Midwest

For Milwaukee to truly re-emerge as a global city, it is time to learn a lesson from our past and embrace immigration. I understand this maybe a very controversial idea but this country and specifically this city was built by immigrants. Companies like Miller Brewing, Falk, Palermo and El Rey to name just a couple were founded by immigrants or their children. At a national level people like Thomas Edison, Jonas Salk, Colin Powell, Carl Sandburg and Peter Jennings were children of immigrants and Henry Kissinger, Levi Strauss, Liz Claiborne, Madeline Albright, Albert Einstein, and Andrew Carnegie were in fact immigrants themselves. Clearly by looking at this list it's easy to see how immigrants have added to our culture, to our technology and to our GDP.

Recent research by Michael E. Porter of the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, a Harvard Business School, indicated that inner-city populations that consist of at least a third immigrants see job growth expanding. Whereas inner-cities with less than a third of their population being immigrants are seeing negative job growth. Further recently research from Duke University indicates that 25% of tech companies started in Silicon Valley were started by immigrants and that number is rising year by year. Additionally other studies have repeatedly shown that immigrants create new business at a rate higher than regular citizens. All of this makes sense because for someone to leave their home country, start a new life, and work their way through our messy legal system they already are risk takers. So given that immigration can lead to new businesses and therefore new jobs and opportunities Milwaukee needs a plan to encourage immigration.

The Plan:
1. Start Early - The Dells, Great America and Door County all utilize organizations such as InterExchange which bring college age workers from abroad to work in the US. This gives them an early experience to life here in the US but it is often far from our city centers. Therefore Milwaukee should tie together our ethnic festivals with international workers to one add authenticity to the festivals themselves but more importantly to expose college age people from around the world to Milwaukee.

2. Housing - While these workers are employed at our ethnic festivals they should be housed on campus at UWM. This will allow them to get a good taste of campus life, urban living and what Milwaukee has to offer.

3. Education - During their stay at UWM these potential students should be recruited by UWM . Further UWM should facilitate their visa process to make it as easy as possible for them to enroll and continue their life in Milwaukee.

4. Sales Pitch - Special events should be thrown in conjunction with UWM, the city, and the festivals to connect current and potential immigrants to the school and most importantly to the city.

5. Employment - Milwaukee companies should be trained on the H1-B process and the advantages of diversity. Further these companies should be integrated into the UWM recruiting process and offer internships to these and other students.

6. Legislation - The City of Milwaukee should actively lobby the federal government to allow for increased H1-B recipients.

By implementing this plan the city can work to increase population, diversity and job growth all at a small cost.

Immigrants behind 25 percent of start ups
In business, immigrants add economic sparkle