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The Welsh Wire: Immigration as a Tool for Workforce Development ft. Kelli Saunders & Andy Johnston

Kelli Saunders, SBAM, and Andy Johnston, Grand Rapids Chamber
Kelli Saunders of SBAM and Andy Johnston of the Grand Rapids Chamber

Accessing and nurturing a talented workforce continues to be a major challenge for Michigan businesses of all sizes. How can immigration help address this problem? That’s the topic of discussion on this week’s The Welsh Wire podcast. Sheri Welsh talks with Kelli Saunders, Vice President of Policy and Engagement for the Small Business Association of Michigan, and Andy Johnston, Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Strategic Engagement at the Grand Rapids Chamber.

“I know this is scary for some people, but we have been experiencing a population shrinkage and it’s never going to be easier to find talent than it is today,” Saunders says. “With people retiring and not being replaced, it’s going to be a challenge.”

Experts say that Michigan can’t grow its way out of a shrinking working-age population, which leaves only a few ways to tackle the talent shortage.

“You can try to attract more people to the state of Michigan, which is tough, because it’s tough to move your whole life from a different state,” says Johnston. “Another option is to have more babies, but that just doesn’t seem to be in the cards right now. We can automate, but that only gets you so far and it’s really expensive.”

This is where immigration can be a valuable pipeline of motivated people who are ready to contribute to economic growth.

“Immigrants don’t take jobs; they create jobs. They don’t take tax dollars; they create tax dollars. They don’t take from the social safety net; they generate it and help support it,” says Johnston.

Listen to Sheri’s full interview with Kelli Saunders and Andy Johnston to learn more about Michigan’s collaborative efforts to support talent growth through immigration.

Subscribe to The Welsh Wire on iTunes for additional informative, entertaining interviews with West Michigan business leaders.