a view of the Detroit skyline from across the river.

Last month, as part of National Welcoming Week, Global Detroit joined Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Detroit City Council Immigration Task Force Chair Raquel Castañeda-López, partnering nonprofit organizations, residents and business leaders in celebrating Detroit’s Top 10 status in the first-ever New American Economy (NAE) Cities Index, which ranks the 100 largest U.S. cities for their integration policies and the socioeconomic success of immigrant and refugee residents.

This ranking affirms a decade of hard work and planning that has placed Detroit among America’s most welcoming cities. Building an inclusive city is a critical component of revitalizing and sustaining vibrant neighborhoods that attract and retain diverse residents.

Through collaboration and true team effort, Detroit and Southeast Michigan have become national leaders in building an inclusive economy that mobilizes our immigrant potential — bellwether traits of prosperous and vibrant economies, cities and regions across the world.

The NAE Cities Index rankings examine 31 different policies and practices, as well as 20 different socioeconomic outcomes, to assess America’s 100 largest cities on their work and results in integrating immigrants and refugees. Detroit’s strong ranking is based upon integration and welcoming policies, programs and initiatives; and the ease by which immigrants and refugees have been able to participate in workforce, entrepreneurship, and homeownership programs and opportunities.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan noted that “collaboration between our office, the Detroit City Council, nonprofit organizations like Global Detroit, Welcoming Michigan and the International Institute of Metro Detroit, among others, and with residents and the business community, has enabled Detroit to rapidly develop and implement important and meaningful policies and programs that welcome immigrants and refugees, facilitated population growth and made us a national leader in integration policies.

“And while we are excited for the distinction among the nation’s most welcoming cities, we are committed to continue this progress to improve city services and policies to become even more welcoming.”

Several public policies contributing to Detroit’s ranking were adopted and implemented since Duggan began as mayor and Castañeda-López joined the Detroit City Council and launched the Immigration Task Force. Included in these programs are a Detroit municipal ID card, a revised language access plan with appropriate funding, council resolutions and mayoral proclamations declaring the city as welcoming and a local refugee resettlement plan.

Efforts by Gov. Rick Snyder’s Michigan Office for New Americans to assist professional immigrants and refugees in attaining their credentials and connecting with unmet talent demands in the private sector also contributed to the ranking.

“Well-designed integration and inclusion policies can make Detroit neighborhoods attractive places to live not just for immigrants and refugees moving to Detroit neighborhoods, but for longstanding residents as well,” Castañeda-López said. “We not only want to ensure that city government provides access to new Detroiters, but also that our work brings African Americans, lifelong Detroiters and newcomers together in meaningful ways.”

Since the Global Detroit study — an 18-month engagement and planning process funded by the New Economy Initiative, the Detroit Regional Chamber and the Skillman Foundation — was released in 2010, Global Detroit has worked with a wide array of public, nonprofit and private sector partners to build the programs, policies and initiatives that have positioned Detroit as a national leader in the emerging field of inclusive economic development.

Programs recommended and called for in the 2010 study include Welcoming Michigan, ProsperUS Detroit (a micro-enterprise training, lending and support initiative focusing on immigrants and African American Detroiters), a Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs, the Global Talent Retention Initiative of Michigan (the nation’s first international student retention program), Global Detroit’s Opportunity Neighborhoods program and the Michigan International Talent Solutions program to assist skilled immigrants and refugees in getting licensed and credentialed and into jobs that utilize their educational skills.

Capitalizing on the momentum created over the last eight years, Global Detroit looks forward to working with the vast array of partners and programs to build an inclusive economy that will create opportunities for both newcomers and longstanding Detroiters. We want to facilitate deeper investments in building bridges between immigrants and their African American neighbors.

Our mission is to spread access to the American Dream in a way that will nurture vibrant neighborhoods that make Detroit residents want to invest, raise a family and retire here.

Steve Tobocman Special To The Jewish News
Steve Tobocman
Special To The Jewish News Detroit Jewish News

Steve Tobocman is director of Global Detroit and authored the original 2010 Global Detroit study providing a blueprint for many of the initiatives contributing to Detroit’s high ranking.