International Flair in Kent
One of the great things about Kent is the international flair that comes from having faculty, students, administrators and business men and women from all over the world sharing our hometown. In a city of our size it’s really uncommon to find so many people of international origin but thanks to Kent State we get to enjoy meeting some of the best and brightest people from around the globe in our own backyard. Our international friends make this a very interesting place to be and it makes those otherwise impersonal news stories of the war in Lebanon personal since your next door neighbor may have family there. And in today’s global economy, our international connections may also hold the key to unlocking a whole new area of economic potential for Kent.
I’ve talked before about doing a better job of leveraging the economic potential of Kent State and no where is that more true than in the area of international connectivity. I am continually amazed by the people that come to Kent State from all over the world. Far east, down under, India, Israel, Russia, Africa, S. American, western Europe…the list goes on and on. If we’re smart we should be able to figure out of way of using that international connectivity to drive more business activity.
Thanks to the ubiquitous internet the other half of the world is only a click away and with China’s economy red hot (20% growth in GDP in the second quarter) and India smashing the ceiling on outsourcing, it’s clear that the global economy favors those that are connected to even the smallest of outposts (look what the Lord of the Rings trilology did for New Zealand’s economy).
The question is how to build a business foundation on our international connectivity. I think we start by building a stronger sense of Kent’s international community. Like so many things in Kent, it’s a bit of a best kept secret. I don’t think we’ve celebrated our ethnic flavor nearly enough and as a result we’ve overlooked a powerful asset.
To change that I’m working with the university and a handful of home-grown locals and international locals to increase our focus on Kent’s international community. We’re still in the formative stages but we’d like to create a “council” to work on integrating our “internationality” into business plans. Why is it that Stow has a Thai restaurant when most of the people from Thailand live in Kent? As an advocate for international community this “council” would plan events, reach out to our foreign friends and strenthen the quality of our social and economic networks around the world and here in Kent.
A couple of decades ago Spartanburg South Carolina decided to build on the few eastern european companies that had coincidently moved their businesses to Spartanburg and they sought to become a center for european businesses to make the leap into the US market. As a result of that strategy decision they recreated their sluggish agriculturally based economy into a high tech hub that eventually led to the opening of a US based BMW plant. Spartanburg didn’t have BMW in mind when they started but as their connections grew and as they had built a strong German community in Spartanburg it became the obvious place for BMW to open a US plant. (see Spartanburg International Festival)
(It’s also no coincidence that Spartanburg has the highest per capita student population that any other city in the state of South Carolina. And guess what, Kent sits at the top of that list in Ohio.)
We have small international businesses operating here in Kent already. Can you name them? Probably not and that’s exactly what we need to change. We need to build our successes into a competitive advantage by building a reputation for outstanding international networks. If we can rattle off the list when we live here, how can we expect potential foreign investors to even think to look in Kent either.
Below is a posting from a friends Blog that offers another perspective on the same story that I’m talking about for here in Kent. The economic numbers speak for themselves.
Minority, bilingual, multi-racial – the coming demographic wave
How minority-friendly is our community? Perhaps we should ask ourselves if this is a place where people of all races, genders and ethnicities would feel welcome?
If not, we stand to lose significant opportunities for future economic investment. Corporate decision-makers look for this quality as they seek to hire the most qualified workforce they can find in a competitive global marketplace.
The Census Bureau recently released data that indicates Texas , Hawaii , New Mexico , California , and the District of Columbia are now “majority-minority” states.
Five other states are next in line with minority populations of about 40 percent: Georgia , Maryland , Mississippi , New York and Arizona .
While the Hispanic population is 1% in Kingsport , 2% in Johnson City , and 4% in Asheville , just down the road in Morristown it’s 10%. The national average is 12.5%.
Here are some fast facts that might surprise you:
|Hispanic Heritage Month
Sept 15- Oct 15, 2006
The estimated Hispanic population of the United States as of July 1, 2005, making people of Hispanic origin the nation’s largest ethnic or race minority. Hispanics constituted 14 percent of the nation’s total population. (This estimate does not include the 3.9 million residents of Puerto Rico.)
<http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/population/006808.html> and <http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/population/006142.html>
Serving our Country
Roughly half of the nation’s Dominicans live in New York City, with about half of the nation’s Cubans residing in Miami-Dade County, Fla. (Source: AmericanFactFinder)
States and Counties
Source for statements in the above section:
Families and Children
Income and Poverty