Kent County Welcome Plan a call to action creating sense of belonging for New Americans
The Welcome Plan for Kent County has been rolled out. Grand Rapids is engaged in a national initiative focusing on the development of multi-sector plans welcoming, including and valuing immigrants and refugees.
The City of Grand Rapids is one of 13 communities across America receiving a Gateways for Growth award to be a more welcoming place for immigrants and refugees. As of 2018, nearly 56,000 immigrants called Kent County home. That’s 8.6% of the county’s population. The Welcome Plan for Kent County began with an economic impact report.
“They contribute more than $3 billion to our county’s GDP. In a year, contributed more than $500 million to local, state and federal taxes. Buying homes. Filling classrooms. Creating jobs through entrepreneurship.”
Omar Cuevas is Vice President of Sales and Marketing at the Grand Rapids Chamber. He explains since 2018 there are more than 2,000 immigrant entrepreneurs in the county.
“If we want to be competitive with other states and have New Americans stay here, we need to create a sense of belonging.”
“It begins with doing the right thing.”
Elvira Kovachevich is Welcome Plan Project Coordinator with Samaritas.
“They live here. They play here. They work here. They are members of our community and we all deserve to feel welcome where we live.”
Kovachevich calls the plan a call to action.
A survey of 800 immigrants revealed New Americans seek freedom in desired professions; maintaining culture, religion and traditions; achieving a desired level of the English language; being involved in their children’s education, safety and future and; having Americans understand their culture, religion and circumstances.
The plan addresses engaging communities, maximizing New American’s economic potential and educational outcomes. Also, providing equitable access to services and ensuring safety.