Notes From our Leadership

Jim Becker, Board Chair

Great cities are vibrant places where diverse people congregate, create, collaborate, invest, recreate and gather. As a committed Detroiter, fifteen years ago, I had the opportunity to lead Avison Young’s Toronto office and experienced firsthand a true, world-class city. The energy, richness and vibrancy of Toronto have elevated the city and its quality of life, not just for the downtown area, but into its neighborhoods and surrounding suburbs. And at the core of all Toronto’s modern glory has been the tremendous growth of its immigrant population who have brought the beauty, ingenuity, work ethic and compassion of their native culture and fused it with distinctly local values and customs.

When I returned to Detroit in 2012, I felt that I was entering a city on the rise from a half century of disinvestment and a city in which there was promise that the racial disparities of the past were no longer being ignored. Amidst all the dynamic growth was Global Detroit, a relatively young nonprofit initiative with roots at the Detroit Regional Chamber, as well as deep connections in Detroit’s neighborhoods. Global Detroit was advocating that immigration could be a powerful ingredient shaping Detroit’s future. The organization not only recognized the tremendously valuable contributions that immigrants make to the city and regional economy, but it was designing and implementing programs to proactively welcome, integrate and invest in immigrant communities as part of the region’s economic and community development strategies.

I continue to learn and be inspired by the work of Global Detroit and the amazing staff we have, as well as all the important work that partners like the City of Detroit Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, State of Michigan Office of Global Michigan, the William Davidson Foundation and the New Economy Initiative and refugee resettlement agencies are doing.

One of my guides in this journey has been Karen Phillippi, who served as board chair to Global Detroit since its inception. Karen’s expertise in this growing field of immigrant inclusive economic development is evident and she is viewed across the nation as a leader in this work. But I have observed how she guided our board and connected with our staff and partners and know that she indeed has left big shoes to fill. As I step into the role of board chair I am grateful to have a talented slate of fellow board members to rely on. Moreover, with Dr. Alaina Jackson as our first managing director, Global Detroit is poised for greatness.

It can be cliché to say Detroit’s best days are ahead. But when you consider the dialogue leaders are having about the Black middle class, systemic racism and forging an economic future that is welcoming and inclusive of all, I think there is great cause for optimism. We all know the great history and assets Detroit possesses, but leaders are engaged in leveraging that legacy in a way that intentionally provides pathways to prosperity for everyone. Ensuring that immigrant contributions and communities are part of those strategies, policies, practices and programs is critical. And I’ve yet to find an organization as well prepared and impactful as Global Detroit to make sure that future is realized. It’s an honor to serve as the second board chair of this organization and I hope you are as inspired by the impacts Global Detroit produced in 2022 as I am.

© 2023 Global Detroit
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© 2023 Global Detroit