Charlotte, N.C. – This North Carolina metropolis has become a pioneer for the whole country in analyzing best practices for integrating immigrants while promoting the economic advantages they offer.
What they're doing here in Charlotte is very innovative, they're starting a dialogue in which all sectors of society will take part, and above all, they're listening to those hiding in the shadows, says Richard Andre, leader of the immigration initiative of the Americas Society/Council of the Americas.
Andre and AS/COA colleague Kate Brick discussed in Charlotte the positive implications of the ordinance recently passed by the City Council to create a study group to appraise the impact of immigrants on the city.
AS/COA began discussions six years ago in several cities around the country on how to ease the integration of immigrants into economic development.
Charlotte, Brick says, is the only city in the southeast United States that has taken real, positive steps to open the door to immigrants, joining with another 25 cities around the country that have realized that immigrants and their businesses contribute enormously to local and state economies.
According to Census figures, in 1990 Charlotte's immigrant population was around 2 percent, and in 2013 it was more than 13 percent of the city's 775,202 inhabitants.
Charlotte is the second largest banking center in the United States, and had among the most applicants for H-1B visas for working professionals between the years 2010 and 2011.
More than 33,000 businesses have been created in North Carolina by immigrants, who contribute some $1.7 trillion to the North Carolina economy, according to Andre.
Alexis Gordon, international relations manager of the city of Charlotte, said the study group on immigration will be composed of 25 members, seven appointed by Mayor Patrick Cannon and 18 by the City Council.
The initiative came from a roundtable discussion organized by AS/COA last May to find ways to make Charlotte a global city of the 21st century.
The group will have a year to meet periodically, organize talks and public forums to delve into the immigrant situation and then present a final report to the City Council.