Welcoming communities make for globally competitive city-regions

By on August 8, 2019

From Brookings: A new foreign resident in St. Louis with a specialty in accounting is with peers in the local industry. Immigrant entrepreneurs spanning high-tech industries and neighborhood businesses get resources to launch and scale. Mentoring and support groups help over 300 international spouses feel at home in the region.

These services are all part of the Mosaic Project, a seven year-old initiative of the St. Louis World Trade Center, aimed at ensuring that the region is equipped to fully leverage the potential of foreign talent and immigrants from around the world to fuel local jobs and growth. The effort is a building block of a broader regional strategy led by the World Trade Center (which is housed within the St. Louis Economic Partnership) to ensure St. Louis’s overall global competitiveness.

With multinational corporations like Bayer and major research universities drawing students from around the world, St. Louis isn’t lacking global connections. But as technological change and globalization concentrate economic success in fewer, larger, and oftentimes coastal places, mid-sized and central regions need to take deliberate action to ensure their global competitiveness. This includes ensuring that a region is open and welcoming to attract foreign talent and business who contribute new skills, connections, expertise, and population to cities–all at a time of increasingly challenging national policy and rhetoric.

The Mosaic Project was initially sparked by a concern that, relative to peer cities, St. Louis had a lower share of the skilled foreign talent that can fuel innovation and make a region attractive to global firms. It has since evolved into a multi-pronged effort aimed at engaging and supporting foreign students, workers, and entrepreneurs. These programs and strategies address specific gaps identified in connecting talent to workforce opportunities and entrepreneurship resources, as well as more broadly marketing and telling the story of St. Louis as a welcoming beachhead for foreign and immigrant talent.

“You have to create a welcoming tonality of your local community at the same time that you have to be attracting international people,” said Betsy Cohen, the project’s executive director and a former Nestle Purina executive, “The soil has to be receptive to the seed. If you bring the seed and the soil isn’t receptive, it won’t thrive.”

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