Essential Pittsburgh
9:53 pm
Tue June 10, 2014

Global Great Lakes Conference Attracts Immigrants to Pittsburgh

Credit Andy / Wikipedia Commons

A recent report by the Institute for Policy Innovation concludes that wages rise fastest in U.S. cities with the greatest influx of highly skilled immigrants. This could be one reason why a number of cities are looking to attract more immigrants to their municipalities.

Attracting and retaining immigrant populations will be the focus of the Global Great Lakes Conference taking place this week in Pittsburgh. Betty Cruz, Non-Profit and Faith Based manager for Mayor Peduto’s Office and Tom Buell, Director of marketing and Study Pittsburgh Initiative at Global Pittsburgh, provide an overview of this week’s conference.

Last year the Global Great Lakes conference took place in Detroit, one of the most active cities in the United States trying to attract immigrants. This year’s conference will be co-organized by Global Detroit, Vibrant Pittsburgh and GlobalPittsburgh. Buell has high hopes for how this conference may be a game changer for immigration reform and how immigration is received in Pittsburgh as a whole.

“Everybody has their own interpretation of immigration reform. I think more and more consensus is being reached that the changes need to be made. But, I think it’s more of a process of understanding of what that conversation is, telling success stories, being open and honest about some of the barriers to immigration. I think a big part of it is understanding, I think a part of it is old fears about job loss.”

Cruz has her own answer to the common fear of immigrants causing job loss for already established Americans. Her parents came from Cuba, and she says immigration does exactly the opposite for our country.

“After taking different jobs, my dad as a waiter, initially, and really getting their start in this country, they were eventually able to save up enough money and open up a small Cuban cafeteria and they employed, it wasn’t a huge team, but they employed a team of employees and paid taxes, and were very proud of the opportunity this country has given them, and in turn, given me.”

Gabriel Berumen has a story much like Cruz’s parents. He is a native of Mexico and owner of Las Palmas, a Latino grocery chain with stores in Oakland, Beechview, Brookline and Washington, PA. They started by unloading their produce trucks by hand, now they need a semi-truck to carry all their produce to their stores, the Las Palmas grocery store chain is a huge hit, especially in Brookline, according to Berumen. He said the people of Brookline have accepted his family and watched their store grow over time. He holds Pittsburgh close to his heart for more than just its economic opportunities, however.

“We go to Kennywood a lot of the time with my brothers. When we have time, we go to a lot of places with my kids. It’s a really good place to live for our kids, here.”

The Global Great Lakes Conference will take place Thursday, June 12 in the Barco Law Building on Forbes Avenue. The day-long conference is free to attend, but registration is required. The conference will kick-off with opening remarks from Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Mayor Bill Peduto at 9 a.m.