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July 09, 2008

« Urbanization and Democracy | Main | Mapping North America »

A group of Cleveland business, civic and policy leaders has launched a new initiative to attract foreign talent. The Plain Dealer reports:

The group of civic leaders and pro-immigration stalwarts seeks cash and support for its "Talent Blueprint Project," a strategy to attract foreign students, workers and entrepreneurs ...

Rust belt competitors are already moving to attract immigrant investment, under a unique visa program. Milwaukee and Pittsburgh are drawing tens of millions of dollars through immigrant investment centers. The program, run by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, holds the promise of permanent-resident visas - green cards - to foreigners who invest in businesses that create at least 10 jobs.

The Cleveland Council on World Affairs, led by Mark Santo, is pushing for an investment center here. For distressed areas like Cleveland, immigrant investment could start at $500,000 ... He envisions an "H1B City" to lure workers from tech hot spots like Silicon Valley in California, the Research Triangle in North Carolina and Austin, Texas ... The region could offer free business space and play up its array of universities and low cost of living ...

Blueprint advocates, led by immigration lawyer Richard Herman, have joined critics nationwide of a program that caps visas for skilled, foreign workers at 65,000 a year. Congress lowered the cap from 195,000 in 2003 due in part to concerns that foreign workers were displacing Americans ...  "High Skill Immigration Zones" would attract skilled foreigners to fill job shortages, such as those in technology sectors. With the gathering of more foreign talent, high-tech companies.


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Dave Reid

I think this is a great idea. The way I see it being done is to get to the immigrants prior to them coming on H1B. I know many immigrants who have now gone on to college here in the US and then to H1b who all started on this summer jobs visa. And the vast majority of this community still live very close to the college they went to... So tie the summer job visas to a university for housing and enrollment programs and now you have new immigrants in your city.

Whitney Gunderson

The article says: "He envisions an 'H1B City' to lure workers from tech hot spots like Silicon Valley in California, the Research Triangle in North Carolina and Austin, Texas.... The region could offer free business space and play up its array of universities and low cost of living...."

This is the wrong way to do this. Cleveland needs to target universities across the country that have foreign students, work with them to get proper immigration status, and then convince them to move to Cleveland. For one thing, there's no way that people from Silicon Valley, Raleigh-Durham and Austin are going to move to Cleveland after comparing and contrasting. For another thing, there are talented students, native and foreign, attending universities all over the United States who are willing to move for a decent opportunity.

Sorry to break the news, but Cleveland says it is going to try to compete against established heavy-hitters in the global economy but is ignoring the niche they have.... which is befriending educated foreign immigrants, working with them to get proper immigration status, speaking of development opportunity and low-cost of living and then figuring out to cluster college graduates and then build their own creative "Great Lakes Tech Region."

This is amazing to me.... everyone wants to be the next Silicon Valley, but they are oh-so-willing to overlook their underleveraged assets and potential to do their own thing. Cleveland is a nice town actually. Leaders just need to figure out that people will probably move to Cleveland not to create a "knock-off" of Silicon Valley, but to build a personalized Cleveland identity.

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