Photo: Cincinnati COMPASS
In 2014, Ohio's immigrant entrepreneurs generated nearly $532 million in business income. Immigrants make up a marginal 5 percent of Cincinnati's total population, yet they account for 7 percent of the state's entrepreneurs.
Cincinnati Future recently spent time with Bryan Wright, the Executive Director of Cincinnati COMPASS, to find out how that organization makes the transition for immigrants to the area easier.
How did you get involved with Cincinnati Compass?
While a professor at Cincinnati State, I was part of a subcommittee on Mayor Cranley’s Task Force on Immigration. Hundreds of greater Cincinnatians contributed to the task force and developed a vision to assist immigrants to land here successfully.
How is the organization funded?
Funding comes from a variety of sources, including national foundations, the city of Cincinnati, the University of Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky University, Xavier University, Miami University, Procter & Gamble, Western-Southern Life Insurance, and the Elevar Design Group.
How would you best describe your operating model?
We have a three-pillar model. First, we have advocacy groups at the national, state, and local levels. This gives us an understanding of state and local policies and hiring practices of employers. Second, we serve as a connector for immigrants to resources and to other cultural communities within Cincinnati itself. Lastly, we celebrate and promote the economic successes of immigrants to increase their visibility and contributions to our community. Much of our work is data driven from surveys measuring different parameters such as housing, education, employment, and schools.
How do immigrants know where to look for resources?
Immigrants can call our office directly or use our self-service website, which can assist them in finding the resources that they need. Community-based organizations point them to us, as well as cultural and religious organizations. We also have multilingual workers and access to interpreters who speak a variety of languages to help immigrants navigate through the resources which can assist them. We have a working relationship with Cincinnati Cares.
How do you connect resources with immigrants?
Resources often reach out to us for the purposes of advocacy. Here is a list of them.
How has Cincinnati COMPASS dealt with COVID-19?
The pandemic has created a shortage of nurses and healthcare workers in Cincinnati, the state of Ohio, and throughout the country. Immigrants can help fill the void. Over 44% of immigrants in Cincinnati have Bachelor of Science degrees or higher from their originating countries. We can help them with the credentialing process needed to work here in healthcare industries.
What are ongoing challenges and how will Cincinnati COMPASS address them going forward?
New executive orders provide challenges in terms of interpreting them and providing education and guidance to immigrants. For the past two years, there really hasn’t been an immigrant asylum process, and visas have been tougher to obtain, causing additional disruptions. There is ongoing insecurity in employment, housing, schooling, and healthcare for immigrants.
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