Huntington Bank, the Cleveland Foundation and several others are putting up a million dollars to back an effort to attract immigrants to Greater Cleveland.
ideastream's David C. Barnett reports that the plan includes the creation of a downtown welcome center.
Cleveland was a cold and lonely place when Lin Ma came to Northeast Ohio as a student, several years ago.
LIN MA: When I come here, I knew nobody. I didn't have an apartment to live in; I thought I would be living on the street.
But then, a local church came to her rescue --- helped her find a place to live and some furniture, and otherwise assisted in getting her acclimated to what would become her new home. In a nutshell, that's what backers claim the Global Cleveland Welcome Hub will do. The idea is to open a one-stop-shop to welcome newcomers to a city that's suffered a major population loss. Of course, it's one thing to lay out the welcome mat and quite another to get people to walk across it. Global Cleveland chairman Baiju Shah says his group will aggressively sell the region to immigrants outside of Northeast Ohio.
BAIJU SHAH: Our job as Global Cleveland is to market the opportunities that we have here that they might not be aware of.
Shah says there over 20,000 jobs in the Greater Cleveland area that haven't been filled due to a lack of qualified applicants --- and they aren't all PhD positions that require extensive schooling; workers for some jobs could learn the essentials in a community college training program. But, critics have asked why we need to welcome newcomers when there are plenty of people here already who are looking for jobs. Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald leans toward the rising-tide-lifts-all-boats argument.
ED FITZGERALD: Every study that's been done shows that when you have an immigrant population that comes in, they become entrepreneurs at a higher rate and they create jobs. If you look at the cities on this planet that are doing well, they all have been welcoming to immigrants.
The Global Cleveland Welcome Hub is due to open for business in a Public Square storefront at the end of May, with the goal of attracting 100,000 new residents over the next ten years, by putting a friendly face on Greater Cleveland for people like Lin Ma.
LIN MA: After I came here, I found that everyone is really nice. They are willing to help me. And I'm glad I'm here.
That's the kind of testimonial Global Cleveland is looking to put out to the global community.