A loosening of immigration restrictions for high-skilled immigrants could unleash a wave of talent, entrepreneurship and capital into the Great Lakes region.
A targeted lowering of hiring barriers for high-skilled immigrants will greatly benefit Great Lakes regional economy, not only because of economic arguments that high-skilled immigrants fill vacant job slots and create new jobs and new industries, but because the demographic data indicates that the Great Lakes region is perhaps the #1 region in the country in terms of attracting the most educated immigrants to the U.S.
Immigration restrictions (and the great "unwelcoming") severely inhibit the region from retaining and leveraging this talent advantage.
Lowering the immigration barriers will allow the Great Lakes region to better utilize its rich high skill global talent base, which in turn will create new jobs, new industries, and serve as a magnet for more talent to migrate to the region.
In terms of attracting international students to colleges/universities, the Great Lakes region is simply unparalleled:
New York: #2 in country
Source: National Association of Foreign Student Advisors
In terms of attracting immigrants with a bachelor's degree or higher:
Ohio: #7 (out of 51)
Source, Migration Policy Institute/U.S. Census
In terms of employer filings with U.S. Dept of Labor, Foreign Labor Certifications (initial step in Employment Based Green Card process):
New York: #2 (64% had bachelor degree or higher; average salary $65,232)
Illinois: #6 (86% had bachelor degree or higher; average salary $66,771)
Michigan: #10 (94% had bachelor degree or higher; average salary $70,304)
Pennsylvania #11 (85% had bachelors degree or higher; average salary $64,856)
Ohio: #16 (86% had bachelor degree or higher; average salary $74,574)
Source, "Attracting Global Talent to Support Regional U.S. Economies" February, 2008
Without scouring the data, it appears that no 4 or 5 state region in the country is comparable to the Great Lakes states in terms of scoring so high in attracting the most educated immigrants in the U.S.
I think it is also true that states like Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania have some of the lowest percentages of foreign born in the country; have some of the fastest depopulating cities in the country; and in some cases, have some of the lowest rates of entrepreneurship in the country.