Friday, July 22, 2016

Immigration and Economic Development

By Ranada Robinson, Research Manager

Yesterday, Market Street participated in the ACCE webinar entitled Immigration and Economic Development: A Regional Approach. It was moderated by Kate Brick with the Partnership for a New American Economy. This bi-partisan organization is dedicated to changing the discussion on immigration to include why making sure immigrants are successful should be a priority in economic development efforts. Contrary to many of the negative stereotypes circulating in the media about immigrants and erecting walls to keep them out, immigrants and foreign-born residents continue to make a significant impact on this nation. During the webinar, Ms. Brick shared these statistics:
  • Immigrants make up roughly 13 percent of the nation’s population but started 28 percent of all new US businesses in 2011.
  • Over 40 percent of Fortune 500 businesses were started by immigrants or their children.
  • These companies employ over 10 million workers globally.
  • Immigrants are over-represented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math employment and are more likely to study in STEM fields than native born Americans.

The webinar featured two speakers: Jason Mathis, Executive Vice President of the Salt Lake Chamber, and Mary Bontrager, Executive Vice President of Regional Workforce Development and Education at the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Here are just a few of the ways these communities and a couple others that were highlighted during the webinar are welcoming and embracing immigrants and their entrepreneurial pursuits.

In 2011, the Utah legislature passed a bill that allows illegal immigrants to apply for a guest worker permit if they pay a fine for being in the country illegally. However, the bill has been highly contested. The program start date has been pushed back over the years, and since the state has not obtained a federal waiver to ensure its constitutionality, lawmakers are now contemplating the law’s repeal. Proponents of the law maintain that it is vital to ensuring that Utah has a strong workforce, particularly in agricultural occupations.

Most recently, the Salt Lake County Government and the Salt Lake Chamber have joined together to launch a New Americans Task Force that includes over 60 private sector, government, and community leaders. Its goal is to develop policy recommendations to make the area more competitive for international talent and business, including supporting proposed reforms to streamline immigration policies. 

According to Immigrant Business, in 2014, immigrants contributed $8 billion to Salt Lake County’s economy. Additionally, from 2009 to 2014, foreign-born population growth in the county has outpaced overall population growth by nearly 15 percentage points. 

In 2011, leaders from throughout Central Iowa engaged Market Street to facilitate a dynamic strategic planning process that would become known as Capital Crossroads. The strategy resulted in ten focus areas called “capitals”—one of these is the Social Capital, which encapsulates leadership development, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and community capacity and civility. One of the most aggressive implementation efforts that Market Street has seen in its 19-year history, Capital Crossroads leaders immediately established work groups and have begun many of the initiatives that were recommended in the strategy. In 2015, the Greater Des Moines Partnership announced the launch of the Des Moines Immigration Initiative, which intends to develop policy recommendations to increase and support Des Moines’ immigrant workforce and advocate at the local, state, and federal levels. 

In 2014, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley launched a Task Force on Immigration to develop recommendations to make the city more immigrant-friendly. The Task Force included business leaders, workforce representatives, faith leaders, and representatives of local service organizations and was divided into five subcommittees: education and talent retention, rights and safety, economic development, international attractiveness, and resources and development. In 2015, the Task Force released its report, which includes 14 short-term recommendations and 9 long-term recommendations. One of its major recommendations is the creation of a Center for New Cincinnatians that will require the involvement of many key partners, including the City, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, and the University of Cincinnati. The goal of the center is to easily link immigrants with services, both online and via a physical space.

According to the webinar, five percent of Cincinnati’s population is foreign-born, and 8 percent of business owners are foreign-born. In fact 21 percent of the city’s Main Street business owners are immigrants, evidence that immigrants are vitally important to the economy.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced in 2015 a new public-private partnership aimed at attracting and retaining skilled immigrant workers and increasing Louisville’s global presence. Global Louisville is supported by the Metro Louisville government and Greater Louisville Inc., the regional chamber of commerce. The nonprofit will work on developing ways to retain students who are on temporary visas, increasing foreign student enrollment, and assisting immigrants looking for employment. This supports one of the goals in the 2014 Advantage Louisville Strategy, facilitated by Market Street: Cultivate Greater Louisville’s Diverse Talent.

According to Global Louisville, 5 percent of the population are foreign-born as are 5.1 percent of the employed workforce. However, immigrants are overrepresented in several areas: they make up 7.5 percent of all STEM workers, 12.9 percent of professional and business services employees, 15.3 percent of art, entertainment, and hospitality employees, 18.2 percent of workers in manufacturing, and 18.5 percent of education and health employees.


It is clear that ignoring immigration or even fighting immigration would be detrimental to the American economy—particularly when the concept of America was based on providing an asylum and new way of life for immigrants. Statistics show that it is untrue that immigrants are a drain on our economy—when “new Americans” are given a chance to thrive, they truly do, through filling workforce gaps and starting businesses. 

Evident across the country in our client communities is the desire to leverage the increasing diversity, not dampen it. What makes America great is the strengths, skills, knowledge, and perspectives of all of the diverse talent present in this country. Our differences make us better—we’re able to accomplish more together celebrating these differences than as a monolithic unit. It is important that communities continue working hard to develop strategies to embrace and support the workforce, including immigrants.

Friday, July 8, 2016

A New Kind of Civic Engagement

By Stephanie Allen, Project Assistant 

Tuesday I was reading an article on the planetizen blog detailing the three most common community engagement mistakes. None of the mistakes were particularly surprising: 
1. Expecting too much time, 
2. Expecting too much empathy for specific objectives, 
3. Expecting too much specialized knowledge. 

Nevertheless, it is always good to be reminded that community participants—even those who want to participate and make a point to do so—have limited time, don’t always think the objectives being considered deal with the issues they care about, and are typically not familiar with the jargon of our urban planning/economic development world nor with our methods. 

In order to get the most out of civic engagement, we would do well to keep these three common mistakes in mind and to do our best to avoid making them.

Enter web-based civic engagement. Getting community buy-in is hugely important for successful initiatives, but public meetings are not always convenient for community members. Not only are public meetings not always convenient, but the format of a public meeting means that it must focus on specific objectives, at the risk of ignoring input about community issues not obviously related to the objective at hand. In addition, public meetings must be pitched at a level of explanation that will engage those with little to no economic development knowledge and, at the same time, not bore those with higher levels of specialized knowledge. 

Web-based civic engagement gives us tools to overcome some of the challenges of public meetings that can lead to the common community engagement mistakes.

First of all, online participation is much more convenient. Community members can participate whenever they can find time and from wherever they are. This provides an opportunity to get input from a wider cross-section of the community. In addition, web-based engagement offers the ability to share a lot more research, to make that research available to the public to peruse at their leisure, to translate that research into specific community impacts and do so in accessible language for those without specialized economic development knowledge, and to make a case for how particular objectives and initiatives link up with issues community members put on the front burner.

Like a public meeting, web-based engagement can be set up in such a way as to foster public conversation among community members and between community members and economic developers. Comments can be addressed. Questions can be answered. And, the ability to access this information anywhere and anytime can lead to more transparency, which can help with buy-in.

So, is the future of civic engagement online? Partly? Certainly engagement comes in many forms and for so many things physical presence and committed engagement are hugely important, but web-based engagement can help to supplement in-person engagement. 

Online surveys are one type of web-based engagement, with which we are all by now most likely familiar. I know we at Market Street absolutely rely on them to help us get a picture of the strengths and challenges community members see. 

But, surveys are just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s a list of 50 web-based tools for civic engagement compiled by

1. coUrbanize: List project information for development proposals and gather online feedback.

2. Cityzen: Gathers feedback by integrating polling and social media sites.

3. Community Remarks: Map-based tool for facilitating dialogue and collecting feedback.

4. Crowdbrite: Organizes comments for online brainstorming sessions and workshops.

5. EngagementHQ: Provides information and gathers feedback for decision-making.

6. MetroQuest: Incorporates scenario planning and visualizations for informing the public and collecting feedback.

7. SeeClickFix: For reporting and responding to neighborhood issues.

8. Neighborland: Forum that encourages community discussion and action at the neighborhood level.

9. PublicStuff: Communication system for reporting and resolving community concerns.

10. MindMixer: Ideation platform for community projects. 

11. NextDoor: Private social network and forum for neighborhoods.

12. Adopt-a-Hydrant: Allows citizens to help maintain public infrastructure. 

13. CivicInsight: Platform for sharing progress on development of blighted properties.

14. i-Neighbors: Free community website and discussion forum. 

15. Recovers: Engages the public in disaster preparedness and recovery.

16. EngagingPlans: Information sharing and feedback forum for productive participation.

17. Street Bump: Crowdsourcing application to improve public streets.

18. Crowdfunding platform to promote local investment in improvement projects.

19. TellUs Toolkit: Map-based tools for engagement and decision-making.

20. Budget Simulator: Tool for educating about budget priorities and collecting feedback.

21. CrowdHall: Interactive town halls meetings.

22. Citizinvestor: Crowdfunding and civic engagement platform for local government projects.

23. Open Town Hall: Online public comment forum for government.

24. Shareabouts: Flexible tool for gathering public input on a map.

25. Poll Everywhere: Collects audience responses in real time, live, or via the web.

26. Tidepools: Collaborative mobile mapping platform for gathering and sharing hyperlocal information.

27. Community PlanIt: Online game that makes planning playful, while collecting insight on community decisions. 

28. Open311: System for connecting citizens to government for reporting non-emergency issues.

29. DialogueApp: Promotes dialogue to solve policy challenges with citizen input.

30. Loomio: Online tool for collaborative decision-making.

31. PlaceSpeak: Location-based community consultation platform.

32. Citizen Budget: Involves residents in budgeting.

33. e-Deliberation: Collaborative platform for large group decision-making.

34. CrowdGauge: Open-source framework for building educational online games related to public priority setting.

35. Citizen Space: Manage, publicize, and archive all public feedback activity.

36. Zilino: Host deliberative online forums and facilitated participatory meetings.

37. WeJit: Collaborative online decision-making, brainstorming, debating, prioritizing, and more. 

38. Ethelo Decisions: Framework for engagement, conflict resolution, and collective determination.

39. Community Almanac: Contribute and collect stories about your community. 

40. GitHub: Connecting government employees with the public to collaborate on code, data, and policy.

41. VividMaps: Engages citizens to map and promote local community assets.

42. OSCity: Search, visualize, and combine data to gain insight on spatial planning. (EU only.)

43. Civic Commons: Promoting conversations and connections that have the power to become informed, productive, collective civic action.

44. Crowdmap: Collaborative mapping.

45. Codigital: Get input on important issues.

46. All Our Ideas: Collect and prioritize ideas through a democratic, transparent, and efficient process.

47. Neighborhow: Create useful how-to guides for the community.

48. OurCommonPlace: A community web-platform for connecting neighbors.

49. Front Porch Forum: A free community forum, helping neighbors connect.

50. PrioritySpend: Prioritization tool based on valuing ideas and possible actions.