As Northeast Ohio prepares for the return LeBron James to the Cavaliers, the region is also  participating in another national competition – one for high-skilled talent.  Across the country, businesses, cities and regions are making efforts to attract talent to fill the open positions of the new knowledge economy.  Immigrants are one of the best sources to fill those jobs since they exceed the number of native residents in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) college classes and professions by large proportions.

 According to the Institute of International Education, in 2013, more than one in three international students in the U.S. were enrolled in STEM courses.  This translates to over 300,000 international students.  On the other hand, the U.S. Department of Education reports that only 16 percent of American high school seniors are proficient in mathematics and interested in a STEM career.

To find common ground and share best practices with each other and the leaders of JobsOhio and the State’s Office of Workforce Transformation, Global Cleveland convened the leaders of the Welcoming Initiatives of six Ohio cities in Columbus on September 30th. Community and economic development leaders from Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Springfield and Toledo gathered with Angela Woodson, Courtney Ottrix and me to inform each other on what their respective cities are doing to attract and welcome immigrants. 

To compete with the efforts of other States, cities and regions, the daylong meeting concluded with agreement that the Ohio cities would continue to work together to develop policy and program initiatives in the following areas:  1)  international student retention and encouraging companies to hire H1B employees; 2)  licensing and career pathway assistance for skilled immigrants; 3)  providing access to capital for immigrants; 4)  cultural issues including language access (e.g., DMV), safety and housing, and 5)  marketing efforts on the importance of attracting immigrants and refugees to the cities and State.

The convening of the Ohio cities welcoming initiatives is a big first step in creating a more welcoming and global Ohio.