Can Immigrants Save Detroit?

July 26th, 2011

It’s a provocative question, but one that was asked at the recent Immigration and Michigan’s Future conference. Co-sponsored by New Media Michigan and Global Detroit, its aim was to “make the case for a diverse, international agenda for metro Detroit and Michigan.”

Detroit, aka Motor City, is recognized to be “in crisis” with its population dropping by 25% in this last decade, from 951,000 in 2000 to 713,700 in 2010. In 1950, the population was 1.8 million.

One unusual speaker was New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (via video link) who re-iterated his call that America’s policy on immigration was ‘national suicide.’ In May, he pitched a controversial idea to increase immigration with the added caveat that new arrivals would have to live in Detroit to help improve its economic situation. While Detroit’s mayor, Alan Bing, distanced himself from the idea, stating the city had too high unemployment for such a proposal, other city leaders found it worthy of discussion.

Other speakers included Michigan Governor Rick Snyder whose Global Michigan initiative (launched in January 2011) aims to attract highly educated immigrants; Steve Tobocman, Director of both Global Detroit and Global Michigan as well as city councillors and foundation representatives.

Global Detroit is part of the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan which was started by ten foundations who contributed $100 million to “fund and spur efforts to shift Southeast Michigan to an innovation-based economy.” The Global Detroit Report was released in May 2010 and is available here.

Watch the Immigrants Save Detroit session recorded on July 18, 2011 at Wayne State University in Detroit.

Also, take a look at the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) pilot program launched in July. It aims to ‘spark economic growth by extending federal resources.’ Six US cities were chosen including Detroit.

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