Probably more than any other factor, population loss threatens the Flint & Genesee economy. The 2020 Census documented a loss of nearly 20,000 residents in Genesee County, or a 4.6% decrease from 2010. These losses have continued in annual Census updates since.

Steve Tobocman is the executive director of Global Detroit.

The impact of such loss is significant. It means less spending and fewer customers for local businesses, fewer workers to fill talent gaps, fewer taxes for local government, fewer students (and fewer state per-pupil dollars) in our public schools, among other challenges.

As we look for ways to address this decline, it’s important to note that without a 40% growth in the state’s immigrant population – from 500,000 to over 700,000 residents – the state actually would have lost population over the last 25 years.

Despite accounting for roughly 7% of the state’s population, immigrants comprise 30% of the physicians and surgeons, 28% of the state’s software developers, 22% of its mechanical engineers, and notably, launch a quarter of Michigan’s high-tech startups.

And it’s not just the highly skilled immigrants that contribute to Michigan’s economy. Immigrants represent over 25% of agricultural workers and 15% of the service industry and retail economy in Michigan. They provide much-needed labor as home health care and childcare providers, construction workers, and a myriad of other critical jobs.

Today, Michigan is arguably the national leader in building a welcoming and inclusive economy, capitalizing on best practices in the field. In 2023, nearly 20 business organizations and industry groups joined to form the Michigan Global Talent Coalition. Through its Michigan Global Talent Initiative (MGTI), the coalition works to attract, retain, credential, and place up to 125,000 immigrant, international student, and refugee workers in Michigan by 2030, solving nearly 20% of our current shortfall of skilled workers.

In 2023, we became the first state to make grants to community colleges to better include immigrant, refugee, and first-generation students. Mott Community College was awarded the largest MGTI grant of any community college to create and strengthen ethnic community partnerships, provide career and educational support, foster relationship-building with students, and conduct an audit of the college’s global community.

MGTI also includes programs to help retain international students studying at Michigan colleges and universities after they graduate; an expansion of national best practices to assist college-educated immigrants who are underemployed (e.g., the Ukrainian asylum seeker who was a chemist back home, but is now driving an Uber or working construction); funds to support work-based English language training; an innovative effort to attract skilled immigrants from other states; and a Global Entrepreneurs in Residence program that has helped launch 13 immigrant startups, creating 130 jobs in its first five years of operation.

Earlier this spring, the Global Flint Initiative launched and began developing a multi-sector plan to leverage these opportunities and deploy the best practices that Global Detroit has been implementing in Southeast Michigan and that Welcome Kent County is pursuing in West Michigan. Global Detroit helped kick off this process by presenting to a packed audience of diverse stakeholders.

Employers, universities, community colleges, international students, refugees, and immigrants that are eager to learn more about how they can tap into the Michigan Global Talent Initiative may contact