SOUTH HAVEN – South Haven Speakers Series President Mark Odland wasn’t kidding when he announced several months ago that audiences would be sure to recognize some of the names of this year’s guest speakers.
Keep up with news and gossip from the Speakers Series on this blog.
By BECKY KARK
EDlTOR AND GENERAL MANAGER
Bing Goei knows what it’s like to be an immigrant — a stranger in a strange country. He also knows, first-hand, how to become a successful business and community leader in that strange land.
Goei, who now serves as director of the Michigan Ofﬁce for New Americans, spoke about the role immigrants play in the state‘s economy, as part of the South Haven Speakers Series earlier this month.
“Our conversation is becoming negative,” he said, regarding the recent political movements to restrict the number of immigrants that can enter the United States. “We have the knowledge, technology and resources, but we have to get beyond stereotypes…l believe our economy is unsustainable if we don’t recognize that it’s for everyone, especially as everything is becoming global.”
Goei and his family left Indonesia in 1954 and sought political asylum first in the Netherlands and later in America where they ﬁnally arrived in 1960 in Grand Rapids. “My dad was an educator, my mother, a small business owner,” Goei said. “My dad was being told what to teach (by the Communist-run government). He felt it was against the well-being of children. At that time, the government was allowing people to leave. We had to leave with the proverbial suitcase and that was all my father, six boys and my mom was pregnant. It was a courageous decision.”
Goei went on to become a successful entrepreneur by getting involved in the ﬂoral business. In 2001, he purchased the bankrupt Eastern Floral in Grand Rapids and rebuilt it to become one of the top 50 Teleﬂora businesses with six locations in Holland, Grand Haven and Grand Rapids. In 2014, Gov. Rick Snyder chose Goei to lead the new Michigan Office for New Americans, an agency established to tap into the talents of immigrants for the betterment of the state and its economy.
“The governor recognizes the valuable contributions immigrants have made,” Goei said. “He wanted the state to maximize the talents of these individuals by making Michigan a welcoming state.” As director of the Office for New Americans, Goei focuses primarily on providing opportunities for immigrants to become entrepreneurs.
“Immigrants are two to three times more likely to start a business than U.S. born citizens,” he said. In Michigan, he said the immigrant population comprises 6.5 of the state’s population. Conversely, 10.4 percent of the state’s immigrants own businesses. Over the years, immigrants have made an impact on the state’s economy in other ways. “Immigrant businesses generated $1.8 billion in net business income in 2010,” he said. In 2014, immigrant household income totaled $19. billion, giving them a total spending power of $14.2 billion.
“They buy cars, homes, all the things we take for granted,” he said. He ended his speech with a prediction made by the U.S. Census Bureau. “By 2043, the majority of the U.S. population will be people of color. We can fear it or celebrate it. We need to know how to use that as an asset rather than making it a liability.”
The presentation on Immigration from Bing Goei was well attended. Here’s the video and some photos from the event.
Watch the video – Bing Goei: Immigration and Our Future – by Richard Brunvand.
By BECKY KARK
For the Herald-Palladium – http://heraldpalladium.mi.newsmemory.com/publink.php?shareid=1dd8cf55f
SOUTH HAVEN — It would be easy for Detroit- born journalist Jack Lessenberry to look back on the good ol’ days of the 1970s when he was a young adult and the Motor City fueled Michigan’s status as one of the top 10 states in America for economicactivity. But as Lessenberry and many other Michiganders know, those days are gone. “Now we’re 34th,” he told a group of 200 people who attended the South Haven Speaker Series on Thursday at Lake Michigan College’s South Haven campus.
It was Lessenberry’s task to talk for an hour about how to make Michigan better, and he was up for the challenge.
During a career that has spanned nearly 40 years, Lessenberry told the LMC audience that he has known every Michigan governor sinceG. Mennen “Soapy” Williams. Currently a commentator for Michigan Public Radio and head of journalism at Wayne State University, he used to work as a foreign correspondent and executive national editor at The Detroit News and wrote for national and regional publications, including Vanity Fair, Esquire, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe.
His career has taken him to 40 countries. “A number of those countries don’t exist anymore,” he quipped. But he’s always remained loyal to the Mitten State and Detroit.
Especially now when Michigan faces great challenges.
“Michigan is an absolutely wonderful state,” Lessenberry said. “In some ways we’re not the state we used to be. In 1979 GM had more blue collar workers in Flint then they do in the entire country today. … We could become the best economy in the country, but we have to work at it.”
He presented five issues that confront Michigan and possible solutions:
• Roads, bridges and infrastructure. “Every year our roads deteriorate further,” he said. “It’s very hard to attract new businesses when your roads look like Beirut after a shelling.”
But Lessenberry’s solution would probably trouble people – raise the gas tax 20 cents, maybe even 40 cents to pay for the $3 billion annual cost over the next decade to fix the state’s roads. Right now, the state Legislature is earmarking $1 billion annually for road upgrades.
• Public schools and higher education. “We are cheating our students, Lessenberry said. “We seem to be the first generation that doesn’t want it better for our kids.”
The problem mainly stems from fewer lowskill, high-paying factory jobs and an increase in low-paying service sector jobs. But Lessenberry said the state and federal government should contribute more money to colleges to reduce the tuition burden many students deal with.
State and federal government revenue once accounted for 70 percent of a college’s budget. Now tuition from students accounts for 70 percent of acollege’s budget. In regard to K-12 education, Lessenberry thinks the state shouldn’t fund charter schools and should focus on fixing problems at public schools. However, he is in favor of private schools.
“They don’t get taxpayer money,” he said.
• Gerrymandering. Redistricting political districts in Michigan has hurt Republicans and Democrats, Lessenberry said, pointing out that in 2014 people in Michigan voted for more Democrats than Republicans for the state House of Representatives, but Republicans ended up with a majority in the House – 64-47.
“It is impossible for Democrats to win a majority the way the lines are drawn,” he said.
• Term limits. “Term limits sound like a good idea, but it opens the system up for corruption,” Lessenberry said. “In the last two years of your term,who are you thinking more about, constituents or the lobbyist who will get you a job when your done?”
Most legislators are finally getting the hang of their job when they end up being term limited, Lessenberry said. “You know who understands their job? Lobbyists. They’re there forever.”
• Jobs. Michigan needs to generate more jobs for its citizens.
But it will take the combined effort of better roads, more affordable higher education, and a commitment by the state to help attract industries. Perhaps Michigan’s junior U.S. Senator, Gary Peters, has the solution – driverless cars.
“Driverless cars need a huge upsurge of AI (artificial intelligence),” Lessenberry said. “If you could headquarter that here in Detroit it could do for this state what automobile automation originally did.”
Watch the video – Jack Lessenberry: Making Michigan Work Even Better – by Richard Brunvand.
What are you going to be when you grow up?
We start asking our kids that question almost as soon as they can talk. Then when they are in high school we put the pressure on….what college, what major, how much debt?
Dr Jean Norris and her son Michael raised some very good questions that we all need to answer as we make these life changing decisions. As we ask….Is College the best choice?
The mother son duo spoke at South Haven high school and then in the evening at the second event of the speaker’s series Thursday March 30th, 2017.
How do you help your student figure out the right path? The Norris team used their interest, value, skill, my life, school and program goal centered graphic to present a series of thought provoking questions designed to help students develop the right path to a successful career. The questions are also helpful for parents and grandparents advising students.
In setting goals ask: why do you want to do this, what does it give you and how will you go about getting it?
Under Interests what programs interest you, what do you enjoy doing in your free time? What do people ask you for help with and what careers are you considering for your future?
What skills do you currently have and what skills do you need to acquire to get to your goal?
What are some of the things that you value about school and/or your work? What do you care about? What are some of your “must have’s”?
Dr Norris and Michael turned to life issues asking: what might get in the way of achieving your goals? How will you manage the change that going to college will create?
Finally, if your exploration leads to college, how will you know when you’ve found the right college for you?
The presentation included links to a variety of Internet tools designed to help make decisions.
The two ended with advice for all to listen, establish a safety net and practice patience.