"To Immigrate is an Entrepreneurial Act": On Attending the Partnership for a New American Economy in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl speaking at
the Partnership for a New American Economy event, 10/19/2012
photo taken by me

I’m the first to admit that mine is your fairly typical, Caucasian, suburban (this-could-be-anywhere) kind of life. Single family house on a cul-de-sac, two cars in the garage, livin’ what we all thought was once the American Dream.

There is not, I’m sorry to say, much diversity in my life. (I’m working on that.)

Since moving here over a year ago, I’ve learned that this is a characteristic I share with my new city of Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh’s working on that, too.

Yesterday I headed Downtown, where One Young World was in full gear (and you could definitely sense the Summit’s energy and excitement). I was just a few hundred yards away from the OYW action at the Partnership for a New American Economy, hosted at the spectacularly gorgeous August Wilson Center by several partners including Vibrant Pittsburgh, the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, and the Pittsburgh Technology Council. At the event, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl signed a pledge supporting national immigration reform.

Partnership for a New American Economy is an initiative headed by several prominent business leaders and mayors, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City. Robert Feldstein was representing Mayor Bloomberg’s office at the Pittsburgh event yesterday.

Feldstein compared the immigration experience as similar to starting a business.

“To immigrate is an entrepreneurial act,” he said.

That resonated with me. Deeply. At first I was confused as to why it would. After all, it has been generations since my family immigrated to this country.

But then I realized why.

I’m still trying to get better connected here in Pittsburgh. And, since being laid off in June, this is very much of a career transition time for me, of exploring new opportunities and all options. Either way, it feels extremely entrepreneurial, of forging my own way, of deciding what path is the best fit.

I was at the Partnership for a New American Economy event helping out Melanie Harrington’s team from Vibrant Pittsburgh. Since August, I’ve been a participant in Vibrant Pittsburgh’s New Arrivals Bridge Program, which aims to connect newcomers in Pittsburgh with key business, civic, and social contacts to fully embed them into the community.

The New Arrivals Bridge Program is a pilot program, now in its second year. It is probably one of the most diverse initiatives I have ever been involved with. It has led to discussions at the dinner table with my kids about the interesting people I’m meeting, the countries they hail from.

In our house, this is a good thing. Dare I go so far and say it’s a needed thing.

After arriving back home from Downtown to my little suburban cul-de-sac, I was still thinking about the remarks we heard yesterday at the Partnership for a New American Economy event when Betty announced that she made a new friend at school yesterday.

“Oh, really?” I said. “What’s her name?”

“Adni,” she answered. “She’s from India. She was sitting all by herself on the swings, so I went up to her and said hi. I told her I was the sort of person that didn’t judge people.”

“And what did she say to that?” I asked.

“She said, ‘I can tell that about you.'”

Yeah, I think we’re onto something here, Pittsburgh.

Panel discussion at The Partnership for a New American Economy event at the August Wilson Center for African-American Culture in Pittsburgh. The discussion was moderated by Robert Feldstein of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Office.

Some press coverage of the event:

Pittsburgh Mayor Ravenstahl Supports National Immigration Reform, Attraction of Foreign born Entrepreneurs to Spark Economic Growth and Job Creation – Global Pittsburgh News, 10/19/2012
http://globalpittsburgh.blogspot.com/2012/10/pittsburgh-mayor-luke-ravenstahl-today.html

Mayor calls for immigration reform, 10/19/2012
http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/2805206-74/pittsburgh-immigration-business-economy-foreign-mayor-percent-born-brightest-leaders#axzz29oDfJuXR

Ravenstahl joins national push for immigration reform – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/20/2012
http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/ravenstahl-joins-national-push-for-immigration-overhaul-658368/

Mayor Ravenstahl supports national immigration reform – 90.5 WESA Pittsburgh’s NPR News Station, 10/19/2012
http://wesa.fm/2012/10/19/mayor-ravenstahl-supports-national-immigration-reform

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