Essential Pittsburgh
6:24 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

Making Pittsburgh Appealing for Immigration & Innovation

How can new immigration policy fuel the brain gain in Pittsburgh?
Credit Autophotomoto / Flickr

Hundreds of immigrants come to Pittsburgh to refine their skills in engineering and the sciences at schools like CMU and University of Pittsburgh. But current immigration laws often cannot keep this potential workforce in the United States.

Brian Kennedy, Vice President of Strategic Services and Government Relations for the Pittsburgh Technology Council says these potential entrepreneurs are leaving Pittsburgh for places that have more comprehensive immigration legislation.

While Pittsburgh doesn’t have border security issues, immigration is important because the city requires a large volume of highly skilled workers to fill the growing technology sector says Terri Glueck, Director of Communications and Community Development at Innovation Works.

“Immigrants tend to start and own businesses at a higher rate than native populations and start high tech businesses at significantly higher rates…and come from more technical backgrounds.” She adds that immigrant-born entrepreneurs also tend to hire more than native-born.

“Pittsburgh is known as a place for talent,” says Brian “At Carnegie Mellon University we have the smallest number of the brightest people in the entire world.” He goes on to say that because these people are on student visa’s, they are unable to stay in the United States. While some critics say America should not be sponsoring foreign workers when we have high unemployment, Brian says technical jobs in Pittsburgh need to get filled, but there are not enough trained workers to take them.

Kennedy and Glueck support the Startup Visa Act where individuals can start their own business and join the fast lane to citizenship. When legislation extends the cap on Visa’s, they say Pittsburgh should vie for a significant number of the workers that will stay in the United States. The city needs to look welcoming and economically appealing for immigrants looking to develop their careers.