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Kaid Benfield’s Blog

Embracing immigration for workforce and economic development

Kaid Benfield

Posted February 25, 2013 in Green Enterprise, Living Sustainably

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              rendering of World Market Square (by: Jason Evans, [re]think syracuse, via Northside Urban Partnership)

Many of America’s older, once-industrial cities are searching for new identities.  Mayor Stephanie Miner of Syracuse, New York, believes that her city can thrive by harnessing the talents and energies of new Americans, showcasing their diversity in a World Market Square in the revitalizing Northside neighborhood.  (Visit the lively website of the Northside Urban Partnership for a glimpse of the upcoming neighborhood.)

In an article published in The Huffington Post, Miner indicates her confidence in establishing a welcoming city:

I believe that for Syracuse to continue our emergence as a thriving city in the 21st century, we must reestablish our reputation as one the most welcoming and opportunity-rich cities for New Americans in the United States. We need to empower our current and future generations of New Americans to grow the economy and 'Home to Generations of Many Nations" (sign design by Stephanie Noble, photo courtesy of City of Syracuse)reshape the city's brand. This requires us to do better at fostering prosperity among diverse residents, but beyond that, we need to help New Americans invest in the city and make it their own . . .

“Our innovation is predicated on an underlying belief that our New American residents are not problems to be minimized, nor clients to be served, but assets to empower. We are harnessing the potential of immigrants and refugees - investing in both people and place - collectively empowering New Americans to transform their own lives, while simultaneously transforming our city.”

That’s a Big Idea, and a very uplifting one, in my opinion.  The site of the new square is a vacant intersection in Northside, long a gateway for new Americans.  The heart of the project will be a distinctive new building, plaza and resource center that celebrates diversity and provides opportunity for that diversity to flourish and prosper, with everything from classes and business support functions to cultural festivals. 

Here’s a short video highlighting the concept:

 

I like it.  The Syracuse concept is an entry in the Mayors Challenge Fan Favorite Selection, a competition sponsored by The Huffington Post and Bloomberg Philanthropies to inspire American cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life.  Readers can view the ideas and vote for their favorite here

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Kaid Benfield writes about community, development, and the environment on Switchboard and in other national media.  For more posts, see his blog's home page.  Please also visit NRDC’s Sustainable Communities Video Channels.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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