For too long, Greater Cleveland's business community has shied away from this issue. So it is very good news indeed that the Greater Cleveland Partnership's 2009-10 public policy agenda unambiguously identifies immigration as key to attracting needed talent.
Specifically, the partnership pledges to support welcome centers and encourage programs to make it easier for foreign students to study here and remain in jobs after they graduate. It also calls for the creation of high-skill immigration zones. That last idea -- soon to be introduced in the U.S. House by Pittsburgh-area Democrat Jason Altmire -- would give businesses easier access to visas for highly educated professionals, provided they employ them in economically distressed areas.
Business and political leaders need to support efforts already under way to attract immigrant-investors through a federal program that gives them access to green cards. The EB-5 visa, as it's known, just got a six-month extension in the omnibus spending bill but needs congressional action to keep going.
The geographic scope of the commentary is Greater Cleveland, which makes the mention of Congressman Altmire's bill all the more interesting. Altmire is part of the Tech Belt dynamic duo, the other member being Congressman Tim Ryan (Youngstown). I just noticed that Chris Briem makes the same observation.
The Pittsburgh press seems oblivious to the Tech Belt initiative, at least compared to coverage I've seen in Cleveland or Youngstown. I'm not aware of any reaction, positive or negative, to the idea in Akron. However, I do know that various stakeholders in Pittsburgh are committed to increasing immigration to the region. Giving Altmire some ink is a good place to start. Strange to think that Altmire's biggest cheerleader for his immigration bill is the Greater Cleveland Partnership.