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Last Thursday, the Global Great Lakes Network and New America Media hosted a webinar to explore the many ways immigrant economic development organizations can engage with ethnic media to better connect with local immigrant populations.  Ethnic media leaders are often community leaders as well, and can be highly valuable partners for entities such as those in our Network, and others working with immigrant communities.

Ethnic Media outlets can provide a direct link to the local immigrant communities, not only because they often write or broadcast in languages other than English, but because they function as a community paper, involved in the day to day life of the populations they speak to.  They can serve as conduits between receiving communities, municipalities, and service organizations, and immigrant communities, and bring attention to the issues facing ethnic populations.

The webinar also announced the launch of a new contest, “A Day in the Life of an Immigrant Entrepreneur,” to gather stories about immigrant entrepreneurs in an effort to spotlight the important role they play in our local economies.  Learn more about the contest and how you can participate here, and please pass it on to your networks.

To watch or listen to the webinar click here, and check out our tweets at #GlobalGL.

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Are you an immigrant who has started your own business?

Do you know a New American with the entrepreneurial spirit who drives innovation and fuels our economy?

Tell us about it!

The Global Great Lakes Network has partnered with New America Media for a story contest, “A Day in the Life of an Immigrant Entrepreneur,” to celebrate immigrant entrepreneurs and their contributions to our communities and economies. We ask for stories about immigrant entrepreneurs in an effort to spotlight the important role they play in our local economies.

One entry from each participating metropolitan region will be featured in a booklet of winning stories.

One regional winner will be selected at random to receive a $1,000 prize.

Click here for more information.

At its core, the Global Great Lakes Network is focused on economic development. It is comprised of and designed for regional economic development initiatives working to tap into the opportunities created by immigrants. While this economic development focus often insulates our work from the daily headlines about federal immigration reform, it is impossible for the Network and the local organizations that comprise it not be moved by the humanitarian crisis our nation and hemisphere are facing involving unaccompanied children (UAC) from Central America crossing the southern border to the U.S.

More detailed reports are now surfacing about the horrors that many of these children face in their home countries. The political rhetoric regarding the crisis can be difficult to stomach. And the challenges can be frustrating, highlighting that we may have longer to travel than we realize before our integration visions become reality.

Our partners (and now parent organization) at Welcoming America have done an excellent job assembling background information on the situation, putting together a series of webinars about the issue, and have worked to highlight the voice of cities and local actors who have been speaking out and taking action to support unaccompanied children. A full listing of these resources is here.

GGLN work, at its core, is rooted in the American Dream and the power of America’s promise of economic opportunity and freedom to inspire folks from across the globe to contribute to this nation’s economic prosperity. That promise is very much tied to the historic role the nation has played in offering refuge and sanctuary to those fleeing persecution. The vision of a Global Great Lakes where local communities are prospering from the contributions of immigrants and refugees includes a place where our communities are providing a home to those seeking refuge as well as a more peaceful, free, and prosperous life.

Beyond the core aspects of this humanitarian crisis, the policy issues playing out around unaccompanied children go beyond simply the impacts on public attitudes towards the immigration issue. Unfortunately, the lack of appropriate resources to deal with the crisis is a significant threat to programs that serve the 70,000 refugees being resettled in the U.S., and in GGLN cities, now and going forward.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) responsible for the care of UACs also funds longstanding programs like Match Grant, Targeted Assistance Grant, and the Refugee Social Service Program, all of which help refugees find employment. ORR likewise funds competitive grants that help refugees start childcare businesses, develop their own community organizations, match savings to buy homes and go to college, and more.

These longstanding programs have demonstrated excellent outcomes. For example, the International Institute of Buffalo (IIB), an active GGLN organization, runs an employment grant supported by ORR’s Match Grant program. The employment stats for 2013 show 83.1 percent of IIB’s clients are working at 180 days, compared to a national rate of 69 percent. These are employment rates that likely exceed even the Department of Labor-funded workforce programming.

The huge increases in the numbers of UAC children crossing are leading to unprecedented demands on ORR and without increased appropriations from Congress, ORR is likely to either short change unaccompanied minors or cut existing programs elsewhere—both of which have negative impacts on work in our communities to foster economic growth.

Aside from the effect this will have on local GGLN organizations that run ORR programs, the more destructive impacts would fall on refugees and local economies if funding were cut from employment and overall integration supports. We see the refugee population as critical not only to the future of Great Lakes cities, but as providing a great example of how immigrants have economic impact. A recent piece published by Empire State Future, a smart growth and sustainable development collaborative in New York, makes a compelling argument for UAC as part of a larger refugee repopulation strategy to revitalize cities in our region.

Unfortunately, the UAC issue is coming to a head just at GGLN and its local organizations are gaining traction and seeing unprecedented investment in immigrant economic and community development. It is happening on the eve of our second convening and the White House Integration Summit.

The President proposed an increase in ORR funding to Congress on July 8th. Congress has taken no action on this request and appears unlikely to do so before the November election. Pitting support for children escaping persecution against adults (and children) escaping persecution makes no sense. Until the federal government can develop a stable plan to respond to the UAC population, funding for the programs serving refugees needs to be preserved.

We urge GGLN organizations and supporters to consider weighing in with your own networks, editorial boards, local officials, and other leaders about how the UAC crisis relates to the long-term immigrant-focused economic development vision. Now is not the time to remain silent.

By Brittany Ford, Peter Ujvagi, Sarah Allan, & Melissa Bertolo

Brittany Ford is the Executive Assistant to Commissioner Pete Gerken, Board of Lucas County Commissioners. Peter Ujvagi is the Chief of Public Policy and Legislative Affairs, Board of Lucas County Commissioners. Sarah Allan is the AmeriCorps Member for the Welcome Toledo-Lucas County Initiative, Board of Lucas County Commissioners. Melissa Bertolo is the Program Coordinator for Welcome Dayton. 

On Friday, July 18, 2014, representatives from the Lucas County Board of Commissioners, Lucas County Land Bank, City of Toledo Board of Community Relations, Lucas County Sheriff’s Office, and Toledo Public Schools traveled to Dayton to learn about the city’s immigrant-friendly initiative, Welcome Dayton. The Welcome Toledo-Lucas County initiative, though still in development, has spent nearly a year strategically engaging and addressing the existing needs of our local community. As we prepare to roll out an initiative in Toledo-Lucas County, we were fortunate to be able to explore the Welcome Dayton model.

Welcome Dayton Coordinator Melissa Bertolo organized an action-packed day for Toledo-Lucas County with meetings, neighborhood tours, and local dining favorites! Melissa and Catherine Crosby, Executive Director of the Human Relations Council (HRC), welcomed us bright and early and introduced to the Welcome Dayton’s history and mission to keep peace, order, and harmony, promote tolerance and goodwill, and ensure equal treatment and opportunity for the citizens of Dayton.

Dayton Public Schools Superintendent Lori Ward facilitated a dialogue with several key staff involved with Welcome Dayton. With over 750 English Language Learners (ELL) speaking over 30 languages from more than 40 countries, DPS has developed and implemented immigrant-friendly policies and programs across the city. Neighborhood School Centers, the Welcome Centers, and the ELL Program create community supports, introduce immigrants to American culture, provide ELL instruction, and ensure student and family achievement.

Melissa had us on the move again, this time to Linh’s Bistro and Restaurant for lunch with City Commissioner Matt Joseph, who was an integral part of developing and launching Welcome Dayton, and now serves as the Chair of the Welcome Dayton Core Committee. We even got a little publicity from the local news.

Before heading to our next meeting, Melissa led us on a tour of Old North Dayton, an area that has been revitalized as Ahisha Turks have settled in the neighborhood. Our tour ended at Catholic Social Services for a law enforcement conversation with Dayton Chief of Police, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE) attorneys, and the Montgomery County Criminal Justice Director. They discussed how law enforcement has worked to create a more immigrant-friendly city, including policy revisions in the Dayton Police Department, community education, and language access, as well as outreach to other law enforcement agencies in Montgomery County to ensure consistent immigrant-friendly policy across the region.

Finally the day ended, with a conversation with members of the Welcome Dayton Committee who provided an inside look at their progress and plans, including their work through various subcommittees. We were particularly interested in the Health and Social Services Subcommittee’s discussion of starting an ambassadors program to help newly settled immigrants and refugees access comprehensive services, as well as the Community, Culture, and Arts Subcommittee’s summary of their draft of a “Tip Sheet” of cultural competency best practice guidelines for engaging with culturally and linguistically diverse communities in special events and celebrations.

Thank you to all of those from Dayton who shared so much of their time and insight with us. We appreciate and look forward to a continued partnership with Welcome Dayton!

GlobalPittsburgh Director of Marketing and Study Pittsburgh Initiative has been named to Mayor Bill Peduto’s 40-member Welcoming Pittsburgh Advisory Council, whose work will shape the city’s immigrant attraction and retention activities over the next three years, it was announced today.

Launched on May 28, Welcoming Pittsburgh is a citywide initiative designed to celebrate the city’s immigrant past and build a more welcoming future. The first step in its implementation is a 40-member advisory council that will determine Welcoming Pittsburgh’s work over the coming years.

“We are a stronger city, enriched with greater cultural and economic opportunity, when we create avenues that are accessible and welcoming to all of our residents — whether they have lived here for generations or are migrating to Pittsburgh for the very first time,” Peduto said. “The Welcoming Pittsburgh Advisory Council will lay the groundwork for greater immigrant integration.”

Buell also served on the Mayor’s transition committee after Peduto was elected last November. He chaired the Global City subcommittee which made several recommendations about ways to help the city and its residents become more globally aware and realize the benefits associated with the city’s growing international prominence.

The advisory council’s main task over the next six months will be working with a facilitator to write a long-term and sustainable Welcoming Pittsburgh implementation plan. That plan will include efforts to engage both existing Pittsburgh residents and new ones, and synthesize welcoming practices into city government and its partners in local business, nonprofit and community groups.

The roadmap will seek to improve efficiencies by identifying overlapping practices offered by different stakeholders in the community, and highlight opportunities for the Mayor’s Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment to build a model for creating a more welcoming experience for immigrants in Pittsburgh.

“Communities that successfully encourage welcoming practices for immigrants foster welcoming environments for all residents,” said Nonprofit & Faith-Based Manager Betty Cruz. “When we spoke with cities across the country to learn from their lessons it was clear that an important first step is to form a guiding council that will develop recommendations that make sense for our city.”

The council was selected out of more than 100 candidates who applied through a public online process. Those invited to participate share a wide range of perspectives including both direct and indirect experience with the diverse needs immigrants face. The council also represents a variety of skillsets ranging from executives in finance, law, and academia to individuals working on the frontlines on issues such as labor, human services, and community development.

The grant will also fund community conversations across the city and the production of marketing materials that the Bureau will use to build awareness for Welcoming Pittsburgh and the impact of immigrants in the city for its first three years.

The city has issued a Request For Proposals to hire a facilitator. The RFP is available here.

Terms on the voluntary council will end upon delivery of the implementation plan in roughly six months. After that period those interested will be asked to serve as Welcoming Pittsburgh ambassadors who will help implement plans for the initiative. The hiring of the facilitator and awareness-building materials for the first year of the initiative is underwritten with a $50,000 grant from the Hillman Family Foundations.

To see a list of Advisory Council members, click here.


The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians receives $692,000 from Knight Foundation and The Barra Foundation to launch Immigrant Professionals Career Pathways Program

PHILADELPHIA —August 19, 2014— The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians today announced a program that will allow eligible immigrants to reestablish their professional careers by helping them secure industry credentials. The Philadelphia-based program is supported by $412,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and $280,000 from The Barra Foundation.

The nonprofit Migration Policy Institute estimates that there are 32,000 underutilized immigrant professionals in Pennsylvania. Many live in the Philadelphia region. These individuals have college or graduate degrees from abroad, but are often employed here in low-wage jobs that do not draw on their education and skills.

“We are thrilled that this funding will both expand our services for ambitious newcomers and help fill a need for these professionals in our region,” said Peter Gonzales, president and CEO of the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians. “People who were doctors or engineers in their home countries often have to navigate complex pathways in order to return to their professions; our new Immigrant Professionals Career Pathways Program will assist them in that process.”

“Philadelphia is increasingly attracting young, motivated talent from around the country and the world—but we must pursue more opportunities to keep that talent here,” said Donna Frisby-Greenwood, Knight Foundation program director for Philadelphia. “This new program will help do just that by opening new economic and leadership opportunities to established professionals that have the skills to contribute to a better future for our city.”

The Welcoming Center’s new program will help skilled immigrants with lawful status in the United States find training and jobs in Philadelphia in their fields of expertise. The program will guide these professionals in obtaining certification, finding transitional jobs and connecting with others in their fields through social and professional networks.

Support for these projects forms one part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to expand opportunities in Philadelphia, while fostering talent retention and attraction. Since 1970 Knight Foundation has invested more than $100 million in Philadelphia’s vitality.

The Barra Foundation’s grant reflects its commitment to supporting organizations in their efforts to test significant new approaches to their work. By funding problem-solving initiatives such as the Welcoming Center’s, Barra seeks to drive positive change across Greater Philadelphia.

About the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians 

The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians is a nonprofit economic development organization based in Philadelphia. Founded in 2003, the agency has served more than 11,000 people from 140 countries worldwide. The Welcoming Center’s services include education and training, employment and entrepreneurship. Learn more at

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation 

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit

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About The Barra Foundation 

The Barra Foundation invests in innovation to inspire change that strengthens communities in the Greater Philadelphia region. It provides approximately $4 million in grants annually that are focused on supporting innovation in and across the fields of Arts & Culture, Education, and Health and Human Services. For more, visit

Global Great Lakes Network Convening ’14

It’s proving to be a busy year for Welcome Dayton staff and advocates! The city’s immigrant welcoming initiative continues to gain recognition from and collaborate with other organizations attempting to make their cities, regions, states and our nation more immigrant-friendly.

This month, Dayton City Commissioner and Welcome Dayton Committee Chair Matt Joseph will pay a visit to Washington, D.C. as he shares best practices and learns new ideas for immigrant integration during a special White House panel. The following day, Melissa Bertolo will also be in D.C. for a presentation to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with other representatives of immigrant-friendly programs and businesses for a presentation entitled “Open for Business: Spurring Local Economic Growth by Welcoming Immigrants.

These two appearances are just the latest opportunities Welcome Dayton advocates have had to influence immigration efforts beyond Dayton.

  • Program Coordinator Melissa Bertolo and Welcome Dayton champion Tom Wahlrab attended the Welcoming America Conference in Atlanta, GA. Both presented on the topics of community engagement and community-wide plans.
  • Global Detroit Director Steve Tobocman recently paid a visit to Buffalo, NY, for the Congress for the New Urbanism gathering to present on “A Global Great Lakes: Immigrants & Urbanism.” While there, Steve sat in roundtable discussions and collaboration meetings with Welcome Dayton and the International Institute of Buffalo. Learn more about this trip here and here.
  • Finally, Welcome Dayton joined other welcoming programs in Pittsburgh for the Global Great Lakes Network Convening. Melissa spoke on a panel with Al Heggins from High Point, NC and Leslie Aizenman from Pittsburgh, PA entitled, “Working Across Sectors to advance Immigrant Integration.” The discussion was moderated by Susan Downs-Karkos of Welcoming America.

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