By Rick Garcia
A few weeks ago Governor Rick Snyder in his state of the state address pledged to make Michigan more welcome to immigrants – The only Governor in the nation to make that stand.
On January 31st the Governor officially signed the executive order witnessed by a group of International Business Students from Grand Valley State University and introduced Bing Goei as the new Director of Michigan Office for New Americans.
The Michigan Office for New Americans will coordinate all state efforts related to immigration including the 50,000 work visas for immigrants in Detroit. Additionally, the office will work on the application process with the federal authorities to become the country’s second state-sponsored regional center for recruitment of immigrants who invest at least $500,000 into a Michigan business.
Goei, owner of Eastern Floral, a successful business, is a Chinese decent from Indonesia who arrived with his parents and six siblings to Grand Rapids in 1960 after fleeing from Communist rule. Prior to coming to Michigan they lived in The Netherlands. Goei has been a pillar in the Grand Rapids community serving in church and business organizations – all in the efforts for diversity and inclusion. Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell even named him a “Champion of Diversity.”As a new leader, Goei will have an extensive checklist.
“I will be traveling a lot because one of the things we have to do is make sure that we listen to the needs and the perspectives of many of the ethnic groups in the State of Michigan because we can learn from them as much as they can learn from us as well,”said Goei.
He added, “Our goal is to make a collaborative partnership with all these folks and make sure we find the talent that we need and grow jobs in Michigan. That’s our goal.”
Momentum has already been in place with the efforts of “Welcoming Michigan,” a grass-roots campaign administered by the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center which conducts a statewide campaign to build mutual respect among foreign-born and U.S. born people who all Michigan home. Welcoming Michigan, works closely with many statewide partners including Michigan Department of Civil Rights, MEDC and Global Detroit.
Goei says that they will not usurp other groups or initiatives already doing this type of work but to make sure they do it in a coordinated effort otherwise were duplicating services.
“We’re going to provide opportunity for everyone to know that programs that already exist for them to become business owners and professional careers,” said Goei, who will continue to promote the program that the Governor has already started which is growing the economy, creating more opportunities for jobs and identifying and recruiting talent from all over the world.
He added, “The bottom line is that we create a welcoming culture for everyone to consider Michigan as their place to live.”
The Governor will continue to work on Immigration Reform on a Federal level and the new office will be involved with that as well. The Governor has tried to dispel detractors on this issue.
“People tend to perceive that if they take a job that means an American lost a job, where there’s a lot of factual evidence out there that says if they’re a highly-skilled person in one of the STEM fields they’re creating 2.5 jobs for Americans for every job they assume,” Snyder said. “Isn’t that a winning formula?”
“We need to encourage immigration in our state,” Snyder said. “We need to focus on legal immigration and make sure people know Michigan is the most welcoming place.”
In his state address, Governor Snyder cited our past failure to understand that immigrants help make this a great state and gave examples of two well-known business pioneers: Dow and Meijer – both founders who were immigrants. According to a full-report by Global Detroit, 32.8 percent of all high-tech startups in the state between 1990 and 2005 had an immigrant founder, ranking Michigan 3rd among the 50 states. Additionally, total economic value generated by Michigan’s farm sector and its related industries was $6.69 billion in 2006. Crops that use migrant labor account for almost 58% of the total economic activity and 20,330 jobs.
This effort should not dwell on bias opinion whether undocumented workers allegedly usurp the system, local jobs taken by “foreigners” or whether federal lawmakers are at a stand-still on this issue, but rather look at one’s family roots where their forefathers worked shoulder to shoulder with newly arrived immigrants at the factory lines, fields or market. It’s not about us or them, but as Michiganders who welcome and embrace “newly arrived” Americans wanting to be part of that dream in the 21st Century. This is the fabric of how our country is built.
This was printed in the February 9, 2014 - February 22, 2014 edition.