By Joe Cimperman, President of Global Cleveland

We live in a great time in a great city in a great nation. I don’t think this or feel this because of an ad campaign, I know this because every single day I see the power of Newcomers and the power of those native born when the two come together. You like Cleveland? You like Parma? Lakewood? Collinwood? St. Clair Superior? Euclid? Beachwood. Thank a newcomer. We know this and thank them through the centuries.

In the 1980s, Cleveland was still one of the largest cities in America. It was shrinking fast, but we didn’t know it. The city still bustles with ethnic neighborhoods and a world of cultures.

This, THIS IS Cleveland’s strength, the immigrant and the migrant families that came here seeking a betterlife. They replenished what was lost and added new foods and faiths and skills. Whether African American or white, Serbian or Hispanic, Chinese or Indian, they all became part of the mettle, those small metal links in armor that together make the material unbreakable.  All of this is what makes Cleveland and Cuyahoga County strong and resilient.

When we lost our migration stream, we lost a lot. The numbers are grim but we have to face them. Cleveland has lost more than half its population since 1950. The city and the region are still shrinking, more slowly but relentlessly.

But there is light. It’s in the families speaking Nepalese, Hindi, Swahili, Dutch and Chinese. We’re attracting immigrants and refugees again. Come see the great work of Villa Hispana and the power of the Hispanic Business Center, come see what the Metro West CDC is doing to welcome Newcomers and support an already great and growing neighborhood. Come see a school called Thomas Jefferson (thank you CMSD!) with its growth of over 350 students in one academic year (605 August 2016 to 980 May 2017) with students starting their journeys to Cleveland from over 40 nations speaking 30 languages. You want hope? You got it:

 Since the 2010 census, immigration has resulted in a net gain of 19,251 people in Cuyahoga County, according to Census Bureau estimates. That international gain helped to offset what would have been a demographic challenge. 

Without this the county’s population would haveplunged by more than 50,000 people. Instead, we slipped by about 30,000 overall, to 1.25 million people. Meanwhile, we added reinforcements who are game changers. Want to meet the next CEO of a great immigrant led company like Chobani yogurt? They are here. She is right here. 

How do I know? Because Cleveland once attracted a poor college student from India named Monte Ahuja. He stayed to start a company called Transtar Industries, which has employed many hundreds of people. He’s now one of our most generous philanthropists. A rockstar. Not from here, but one of us surely.

 We also welcomed Rey Ny, a child refugee from Cambodia. She grew up in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. Last month, she opened her restaurant, Boiler 65, in the old neighborhood–just like the immigrants of old might have done.

 For the past year, Global Cleveland has celebrated Immigrant Heritage Year. Almost every day, we profiled a new American who settled in Northeast Ohio. We posted his or her story on our website and shared it through our social media channels.

You’ll find all the stories here, on our website:

I hope you can take some time to glance through the collection, and read a few of the stories, as I like to do from time to time. You’ll find someone from your own culture and a dozen more. You’ll see the world smiling back at you. You’ll see why so many of us are hopeful for this city. 

Our historic strength, the strivers of the world, are knocking again. What do we do as great and greater Clevelanders? We open the door and say welcome friend.