VOICES: Recruiting global talent is key to Ohio’s economic growth

Over my career as a state senator, a U.S. Congressman and now the Ohio Chamber of Commerce CEO, I’ve come to believe that global talent is a key ingredient to our economic vitality. To fulfill their ever-evolving workforce needs, Ohio’s businesses, both large and small, depend on a steady influx of talent to remain competitive and continue to drive our economic growth.

The Ohio Chamber supports and actively works toward attracting talent from other states, but we also need to attract talent from other countries if we wish to truly reach our economic goals.

In my position, I hear about workforce issues from business owners every day. Our state’s employers are finding it increasingly difficult to staff their companies — there are just not enough workers, and especially not enough with the proper qualifications. By recruiting immigrants who possess the specific skills and expertise that employers seek, we can fill these workforce gaps and ensure our businesses remain competitive on a global scale.

Last November, the Ohio Chamber released our Blueprint for Ohio’s Economic Future, a comprehensive report that focuses on the key areas for economic growth and improvement for the state of Ohio. We will use the findings in this report to guide our policy priorities for the next decade to come. Our goal is to make Ohio the best place in the world to live and do business.

The Blueprint focuses heavily on workforce as one of these key levers to economic success. In its recommendations, the Blueprint asks us to “Grow Ohio’s population and recruit out-of-state workers.” To do this, it says, we must “foster a culture more explicitly supportive and inclusive of foreign workers and international students.”

At the state level, it asks policymakers to support and encourage immigrants to live and work in Ohio. At the federal level, it asks Ohio leaders to advocate for common sense immigration reform, including employment-based green card reform, changes to the non-immigrant employment-based visa program, and ways to eliminate the backlog of visa requests.

Beyond filling employment gaps, immigrants also have a positive impact on entrepreneurship, as they launch new businesses at significant rates. Immigrant populations have a long history of contributing to American entrepreneurship and innovation— many successful companies were founded by immigrants, and they continue to play a pivotal role in driving technological advancements and innovation. Today, more than 29,000 foreign-born entrepreneurs create services and support our local economies across Ohio.

Additionally, Ohio, like many other states, faces demographic challenges as our population rapidly ages. Immigrants can help offset this trend by increasing our population and growing our communities in meaningful ways, diversifying our culture and fostering a sense of inclusivity for all. This rising, diverse population would ensure a stable workforce for years to come.

Finally, immigrants are key to economic recovery. A report from NAE assessing the aftermath of the Great Recession found that metro areas with more immigrants were able to recover faster than others. On average, each additional percentage point of foreign-born residents was associated with almost 800 more employed workers in 2015.

Attracting and retaining global talent also has benefits beyond the business community: it creates a more robust tax base. Foreign-born Ohioans paid $6 billion in taxes in 2019, according to New American Economy.

I’m proud that Ohio attracts global talent to our doorstep, and I’m proud that business leaders have begun to see the vital role that newcomers play in our communities. We are eager to implement the Blueprint’s recommendations and continue our work toward making Ohio a welcoming place for all and, as a result, a true global competitor.

Steve Stivers is the CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

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