Business, Industry Groups Form Statewide Immigration Reform Coalition

Seeking “commonsense immigration reform,” a number of regional and statewide business groups announced Thursday they have formed Ohio Business for Immigration Solutions (OBIS) and are calling for bipartisan efforts from the 134th General Assembly and 117th Congress.

“OBIS membership is representative of Ohio’s diverse economy, including chambers of commerce from communities in all corners of the state, various industry trade associations and statewide business groups,” the organization said in a release.

“This nonpartisan coalition is the first organized effort to provide a unified business voice in Ohio on immigration issues at the federal, state and local levels. OBIS will work to inform and educate policymakers on the impacts of various immigration policies and the economic contributions of immigrants to Ohio’s economy. In 2018 alone, immigrants in Ohio paid $5.7 billion in federal, state and local taxes, and held $14 billion in spending power.”

OBIS’ first act was to issue an open letter to Ohio’s congressional delegation, emphasizing that a modernization of the immigration system has to be a priority. The release noted businesses have struggled to attract and retain needed workers for jobs currently available, calling the current immigration and visa system “not flexible and responsive to the real needs of Ohio employers.”

Those issues were present before the pandemic, the release noted, and policymakers cannot “lose sight” of the fact that they will remain after COVID-19 has been resolved. The organization has also developed a guiding document for its work, the Ohio Compact on Immigration.

OBIS members include chambers of commerce in Columbus, Cincinnati, Akron and other cities; Ohio Bankers League, Ohio Business Roundtable, Ohio Council for Homecare & Hospice, Ohio Grocers Association, Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association, Ohio Pharmacists Association, Ohio REALTORS, Ohio Restaurant Association, OhioX, BioOhio, Cincinnati Compass, Columbus Partnership, Eastman & Smith LTD, Greater Cleveland Partnership and Hispanic Chamber of Cincinnati USA.

“We have joined Ohio Business for Immigration Solutions because we know that immigration brings innovative, talented workers to Ohio,” said Columbus Partnership President and CEO Alex Fischer in the release. “We must pursue immigration policies that meet the needs of the Columbus region and its many growing employers."

“Our primary focus at the chamber is to drive economic growth and prosperity for Greater Akron by supporting the success of the business community,” added Greater Akron Chamber President and CEO Steve Millard, who cited the city’s history of attracting immigrants in the early 20th century and its growing Nepalese community today.

“… The success of our economy relies on continuing to inject and include new talent, energy and ideas from people that come to, and stay in, Greater Akron.”

“The members of the Ohio Grocers Association perform critical work ensuring that Ohioans have access to a safe and secure food supply. Immigrants play a vital role in this work,” said its President and CEO Kristin Mullins. “We joined Ohio Business for Immigration Solutions to advocate for policies that strengthen Ohio’s food supply chain workforce.”

“Our membership is uniquely positioned to realize the impact of immigration on Ohio’s economy,” said Ohio REALTORS CEO Scott Williams. “Immigration has helped grow communities around our state, and REALTORS have been there to assist them in finding homes for their families. We joined Ohio Business for Immigration Solutions because we need immigration policies that allow more new Americans to put down roots in Ohio.”

Story originally published in The Hannah Report on December 10, 2020.  Copyright 2020 Hannah News Service, Inc.