Immigration Reform Can Help Solve Ohio’s Workforce Crisis

During my career as a State Senator, Member of the United States Congress, and now CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, I have come to believe that global talent is a key ingredient in our economic vitality. Of course, the Ohio House supports getting people to move to Ohio from other states, but we need to attract talent from other countries as well. With our rapidly aging population and our global competitors determined to steal our foreign-born college graduates, we need a new approach to attracting and retaining talent.

That’s why a year ago, the chamber joined the Ohio Business for Immigration Solutions (OBIS), a coalition of Ohio businesses, trade organizations, municipal chambers, and economic development groups that support sensible immigration reform. The Ohio business community knows that the status quo is not an option for solving our workforce issues, so we are advocating for policies that will increase the workforce and help us fill the workforce. vacant jobs. For example, improving access to green cards for employees in the in-demand sector and increasing work visa quotas for foreign workers to reflect current skills gaps.

It has been great to see the business community stand up to deal with the workforce crisis. Over the past 12 months, OBIS has tripled its growth from 20 to nearly 70 members, and now includes all geographies of Ohio and industries, from healthcare and manufacturing to l agriculture and technology. We brought business leaders to round tables with elected officials and offered them a platform to share their personal stories. So many of our businesses have real-life examples of how immigrants have helped make a difference.

Take for example Ross McGregor, president of Pentaflex Inc. He recently joined OBIS because he believes immigration reform can help alleviate workforce issues. Like many business owners, he faces not only a labor shortage, but also high turnover rates. It recently hired 20 Haitian immigrants to stabilize its workforce and reduce turnover. At first there was a language barrier, but this problem was quickly resolved by translating the work instructions into the workers’ mother tongue. Haitian workers are reliable and hardworking employees. This positive experience led him to become a member of OBIS and share his story with decision makers at all levels of government.

Mexican immigrant Vicky Uriostegui, who has lived in the United States for 27 years, pulls out garden hoses at dawn on a farm in fields near Turlock, California.  Agriculture is the main economic engine in the region and most of the fieldwork is done by immigrants.  Whether longtime laborers such as Uriostegui should have a path to U.S. citizenship for their work is a hot topic of debate between Democrats and Republicans, as farmers and their livelihoods are at stake.

Attracting and retaining global talent also has benefits beyond the business community. It creates a stronger tax base. Foreign-born Ohioans paid $ 6 billion in taxes in 2019, according to New American Economy. Immigrants also have a positive impact on entrepreneurship, as immigrants launch new businesses at a significant rate. Today, more than 29,000 foreign-born entrepreneurs are building services and supporting our local economies across Ohio.

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

I am proud that Ohio attracts global talent to our doorstep. And I’m proud that business leaders see the vital role newcomers play in our communities. We are building a movement for our businesses, for our economy and for all of our Buckeye neighbors. We hope you will join us.

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

Steve Stivers is the president and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and a former United States representative for the 15th Congressional District of Ohio.

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