Michigan Plans New Measures to Attract Skilled Business Migrants
In an effort to boost Michigan’s ailing economy, Gov. Rick Snyder has launched an initiative designed to attract highly skilled immigrants and investors who can help the state get back on a financially successful path.
The program, known as Global Michigan, is a scaled-up version of an earlier initiative that Gov. Snyder implemented on a local level while he was board chairman in the city of Ann Arbor. To date, committees have been formed to help Global Michigan:
- retain foreign nationals who graduate from area universities
- attract skilled immigrants from either overseas or from other states
- look for foreign-born nationals who are already here but underutilized
Committees are working to connect immigrant university graduates with employers and to help them find resources to start businesses. They are also working to identify underutilized immigrants, which has been an often overlooked group. Studies have found that nearly one in five U.S. immigrants work in roles such as taxi drivers despite having university degrees. Michigan decided this was wasted talent that should be pursued.
In a 2007 Duke University study, it was found that at least one founder in more than 25 percent of U.S.technology and engineering firms was foreign born. Together, these companies produced more than $52 billion in revenues in 2005 and created close to 450,000 jobs that year. A second study found that of all U.S.patents filed, 25 percent involved at least one immigrant.
Amy Cell, Senior Vice President of talent enhancement at the Michigan Economic Development Corp. commented on Global Michigan, saying that, “This is looking at what is really the best thing for Michigan when you look at the types of opportunities that can come about from immigrants, and the contributions they make in a community.”
Michigan’s goal is to establish a more immigrant friendly environment where foreign nationals can translate their knowledge, ideas, education and entrepreneurial spirit into newly created companies that can help boost the state’s economy. Michigan’s program is being called pioneering. It is also being compared to similar immigration attempts made in countries such as Canada and Australia.
In order to successfully develop and execute Global Michigan, leaders of the initiative have recruited dozens of public and private organizations. These include local businesses, economic development agencies, professional associations, advocacy groups and universities.
Opponents argue that immigrants would take jobs from state residents. Others argue that current national immigration policies pose major problems for foreign nationals with student visas who graduate and want to stay in the United States. To date, regardless of how successful a business becomes, foreign students who become entrepreneurs still have to return to their countries when their visas expire, which is an issue to immigrants who want to remain in the U.S. to pursue business goals.
Nationally, a “Startup Visa” bill is presently working its way through Congress. The bill would make entrepreneurship-based immigration easier. A visa would be available for immigrants who create startups and jobs in the U.S. After two years, if the immigrant entrepreneur created at least five full-time jobs in the U.S., attracted $1 million in investment capital or reached $1 million in revenue, then he or she would be eligible for Permanent Legal Resident status.