Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Immigrant Solution

Attracting more immigrants to Northeast Ohio is a venerable goal. Today the PD’s Joe_Frolik introduces us to a Cleveland immigrant success story. This column was an addendum to previous “Quiet Crisis” reports that argued the importance of immigrant contributions to a region’s economy.

Joe will join others tonight at 8 p.m. on WVIZ to discuss the issue of attracting immigrants to Northeast Ohio. We hope Joe and his contemporaries spend more time focusing the conversation on economic fundamentals and less on suspicions about our region’s culture.

Fundamentally, immigrants are like any other human resource. In an era of global sourcing, they will typically be attracted to areas that reward their skills with the highest values. Cleveland needed masons and bricklayers at the turn of the century, resulting in an influx of Italians with such skills. These immigrants gave rise to Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood, as many of them were employed at Lakeview Cemetery. We venture that none of these transplants chose Cleveland as much as the region’s economic demands selected them. The same principles hold true today. Our regional labor supply is adequately serving its demand for labor, which unfortunately means no need for outside sourcing.

The only way we can make our region more appealing to immigrants is to affect both sides of the labor equation. This means we must apply our regional focus on creating demand for labor and spend less of our precious resources determining how to make the region more appealing to immigrants. They will tell us how to do that once they arrive.

It's our opinion that if we focus our collective resources on creating demand for specific skills and labor, problems like immigration and many of the other Quiet Crisis symptoms will remedy themselves.


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