The Board of Lucas County Commissioners is pleased to announce that it has achieved the status of Certified Welcoming, the first county in Ohio and only the second community in the state to earn the merit. The Commissioners and Welcoming America announced Lucas County’s achievement today during a press conference in One Government Center.
According to research published by New American Economy, the immigrant population in the city of Toledo grew from 2.8 percent in 2000 to 3.7 percent in 2014. During the same the period, the U.S.-born population decreased nearly a 13 percent. Also, local immigrants, who account for 3.4 percent of the overall population, make up 4.2 percent of the workforce, generate nearly $242 million in spending power for the local economy, and contribute more than $31 million in state and local taxes.
“We are thrilled that Lucas County has received this special recognition for the commitment we have made to treat all people equally regardless of where they came, how they worship, or who they love. We are a diverse community that respects everyone from all nations and all cultures,” The Lucas County Commissioners said. “We hope that more cities and counties will follow our example for the values that we have established for embracing immigrants and refugees and fostering diversity.”
Isha Lee, Deputy Director of Welcoming America, said: “Communities all over the country are distinguishing themselves by leveraging change to create even more vibrant, prosperous places to live where everyone enjoys a sense of belonging. We congratulate Lucas County, Ohio for their rigorous work to meet the Welcoming Standard to become Certified Welcoming, proving once again that it is a great place to live, work, and invest.”
Immigrants make significant contributions to local economies and neighborhoods across the United States, and immigrant-owned businesses employ nearly six million workers nationally. Immigrants-owned businesses also play a critical role in revitalizing neighborhoods through entrepreneurship, reversing population decline, and homeownership.
“We are proud of the work that Lucas County and partners of Welcome TLC have done to attain Certified Welcoming, a national recognition of our best practices,” said Welcome Toledo-Lucas County (TLC) Co-Chairs Mechelle Zarou, an attorney and partner with Shumaker Loop & Kendrick, LLC, and Reem Subei, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE) staff attorney. “Our community will continue to implement policies and programs that support and engage our small but growing and economically important immigrant community. In the face of negative rhetoric and policies at the national level, we remain committed to our work to make Toledo-Lucas County a more welcoming community for all.”
A growing number of places recognize that being welcoming leads to prosperity. Currently, one in seven Americans live in a welcoming community and those communities that become Certified Welcoming are leading the movement by demonstrating their commitment to equity and inclusion through policy and programmatic activities. Certified Welcoming communities gain a competitive advantage by using their designation for attracting and retaining a global workforce and businesses whose values align with welcoming and inclusion.
“We congratulate Lucas County on achieving Certified Welcoming status,” said Wendy Gramza, President and CEO of the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Positioning the Toledo region as both diverse and inclusive is vital to attracting and retaining the talent our employers need, both today and in the future. Certified Welcoming designation shows our community is a place where individuals can succeed, regardless of who they are, what they look like, and where they come from.”
Lucas County completed an intensive evaluation to earn the Certified Welcoming designation, led by Lucas County and LISC staff for Welcome Toledo-Lucas County. Local policies and programs were compared to the comprehensive Welcoming Standard that covers community investments from education to economic development to policing.
“Immigrants add social, cultural, and economic benefits to our country. The recognition of Lucas County as a Certified Welcoming community validates this point,” stated Meyling Ruiz, the President of the Latino Alliance of Northwest Ohio, immigrant, and recent naturalized citizen from Nicaragua. “Latino Alliance of Northwest Ohio is a proud partner of Welcome TLC, Lucas County, and local efforts to building a welcoming and immigrant-friendly community.”