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Out & About in Cleveland

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2017 Global Employer Summit

On Wednesday, May 31st, we went to the Intercontinental Hotel on Carnegie Avenue in Cleveland to attend the morning session of Global Cleveland's 2017 Global Employer Summit which was, as a May 8, 2017article in "Crain's Cleveland Business" indicated, "designed to show area employers how they can take advantage of talent from around the world that's resettling or immigrating to Greater Cleveland."

As our program notes read, "speakers will share their expertise on engaging with international talent, doing business in a global marketplace, and advocating for business-focused policies. Global employers are seeing a competitive advantage to attracting and retaining the world's top talent and will share insights on ways our region can stop overlooking the immense economic benefits of welcoming international talent and start to collectively benefit."

The Summit went on for the better part of the day but we could only stay for the morning session. Nevertheless, we still got to hear a speech by Mr. Dany Behar, Brookings Institution Global Economy and Development Fellow and Associate, Harvard University Center for International Development; Welcoming Remarks by Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson; a keynote address by Mr. Jon Baselice, Director of U.S. Immigration Policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; remarks by Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish; and a panel regarding "The Global Economy and Northeast Ohio Business" moderated by Ms. Elizabeth McIntyre from "Crains Cleveland."

Mr. Bahar discussed the positive impact that immigrants have had on local economies and how what they give outweighs what is given to them in terms of public assistance.  On the global front, he contended that "migrants reduce the costs of 'doing business' between two nations, fostering trade and foreign investment." One of the examples that he gave was that "U.S. states that randomly received more Vietnamese refugees in the late 1970's are larger exporters of goods and services to Vietnam today."

In the course of his brief remarks, Mayor Jackson discussed the fact that in Northeast Ohio there are thousands of unfilled positions because no one is qualified to fill them. Immigrants (including those that are currently international students) have the potential to fill some of this void but two factors hindering this are the sizable employer costs of sponsoring an immigrant and cultural in terms of our ability to accept diversity and allowing it to flourish. Cuyahoga County Executive Budish was on much the same page. He cited how much the Cleveland Clinic depends on international talent and that it is very much to our advantage to retain what we have and to move forward.

Mr. Baselice talked about the current confusion taking place in terms of our immigration policies especially the travel bans.  He believed that a lot of this is because the Trump administration is very divided between those who want a reasonable degree of constructive immigration reform and those who do like Attorney General Sessions. He made it clear though that "the sky is not falling" and the Obama administration was not without its problems either. In terms of the future, he hinted that in time the Trump administration will have to moderate itself. Along these lines, he believed that organizations like Global Cleveland have the potential to make an impact through its advocacy for immigrants and suggested that one good bill we might consider getting behind is U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch's Immigration Innovation Act.

We looked up an article that U.S. Senator Hatch wrote for "The Mercury News" that was published on March 30, 2017 in which which it was written that the bill would "contain a streamlined green card process for high-skilled workers and strict penalties for companies that use H-1B workers to displace American employees. It will also create a better procedure for H-1B workers who wish to stay in the United States long-term to change jobs so that employers cannot lock them in at below-market wages."

In answer to a question by Mr. Joe Roman, President and CEO of the "Greater Cleveland Partnership", regarding the EB5 visa program Mr. Baselice said that he believed that the current debate about its future should be resolved by the end of the year and the program will continue. We, ourselves, asked him what we could do to help undocumented people threatened with deportation and he said that it might be best to focus and to highlight individual instances of those who are working hard and respected and loved by their communities.

The panelists involved in the Global Economy and Northeast Ohio Business were Cuyahoga County Councilman Jack Schron who is also the head of "Jergens, Inc."; Dr. Nizar Zein, Chief of Global Patient Services at the "Cleveland Clinic"; Mr. Peter Clarke, General Manager and Director of Regional Operations, "Intercontinental"; Mr. Baiju Shah, CEO of "BioMotiv"; and Ms. Michele Connell, Managing Partner of the Cleveland office of "Squire Patton Boggs". 

Among the topics discussed was workforce development and it was said that it was vital that the forces of government, non-profits, education, and private business coordinate their efforts. It was also agreed that Northeast Ohio was good in terms of welcoming newcomers but we could be doing better. Along these lines, the remarks of Mr. Clarke were particularly telling as he discussed how an important component used by "Intercontinental" in terms of hiring people was their attitude about working with the foreign born guests and trying to understand and respect their customs; this was much more important than skills which could be taught.

Throughout the day there would be other panels and breakout sessions concerning such topics as "International Talent as a Regional Economic Driver" and "Immigration Trends for Globally Competitive Organizations."

We really appreciated the networking opportunities that the Summit presented so we got to meet and talk with such people as Ms. Donna Wolcott from "Gojo" that works closely with the "International Institute of Akron" and has hired quite a few refugees from such places as Burma and Nepal; Ms. Janice T. Radak, a very concerned person who discussed with us the conflicting instructions that she received from various governmental parties when she tried to help a friend who was attempting to immigrate to the U.S. from Europe; and Dr. Ven Ochaya, Director of Entrepreneurship and Sustainability MBA Programs at "Baldwin Wallace University" who immigrated to the U.S. quite a few years ago from Uganda and very much agreed with the spirit of the Summit which was connecting "local to global."

By:

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC