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Reinventing the Rust Belt: Welcoming Economies, Immigrant Entrepreneurship, and Urban Resilience
Elmer, Julia Raquel

2016, Doctor of Philosophy, Ohio State University, City and Regional Planning.
In the aftermath of the Great Recession, welcoming initiatives aimed specifically at attracting first generation immigrant entrepreneurs for their economic benefits are launching in shrinking cities of the Rust Belt in the Midwestern United States. However, with their narrow focus on economic benefits, these initiatives may be overlooking the spatial or community development impacts of immigrant entrepreneurship which have a strong effect on the reinvention and indeed resilience that cities are seeking to achieve by attracting immigrant entrepreneurs.

The main objective of this research is to examine first generation immigrant entrepreneurship within the context of immigrant welcoming policies and plans. The five initiatives under investigation - Agenda 360 (Cincinnati), Welcome Dayton, Global Detroit, Immigrant Welcome Center of Indianapolis, and St. Louis Mosaic Project - are the longest standing consistent members of the Welcoming Economies Global Network and its predecessor organization known as the Global Great Lakes Initiative. These initiatives have the most established programming and longest track records of all member initiatives.

This dissertation begins with a review of the academic literature related to the non-spatial and spatial impacts of immigrant entrepreneurship. It then presents Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats (SWOT) analyses of each of the initiatives, a social justice framework analysis of the Welcome Dayton Plan, and an examination of eight existing indices of urban resilience.

Findings include common strengths and opportunities such as peer-to-peer programs, ethnic chambers of commerce, and existing immigrant communities, as well as common weaknesses and threats such as small staff sizes, limited sources of funding, and a lack of evaluation metrics. The success of welcoming initiatives will be mitigated by external threats such as federal immigration policy, negative sentiment toward immigrants, and competing welcoming initiatives in nearby cities. Furthermore, the three tenets of social justice - equity, inclusion, and empowerment - can impact the degree of immigrant entrepreneurship and influence its spatial impacts on economic and community development.

The Resilience Capacity Index (RCI) emerges as the most likely index for incorporating immigrant-related variables. The documented spatial impacts of immigrant entrepreneurship demonstrate a clear role for immigrant entrepreneurs as contributors to economic and community development processes that lead to greater urban resilience at the city and neighborhood levels. Nonetheless, some measures of urban resilience like metropolitan stability, voter participation, health insurance, and home ownership may produce skewed or inaccurate conclusions about cities or neighborhoods with large immigrant populations.

This dissertation brings two bodies of research - immigrant integration and economic development - together within the context of urban planning as part of a broader discussion about the role of immigrant entrepreneurship in reinventing America's shrinking cities. The analyses presented herein advance the understanding of immigrant entrepreneurship within the context of the Welcoming Economies movement. Immigrants are important assets for the vitality and resilience of cities and neighborhoods, and this dissertation points toward the development of evaluative models that allow for greater understanding of the outcomes of immigrant welcoming initiatives. Future research also could include an examination of the relationship between welcoming initiatives and secondary migration within the United States.
Bernadette Hanlon (Advisor)
Jack Nasar (Committee Member)
Kareem Usher (Committee Member)
287 p.

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Elmer, J. (2016). Reinventing the Rust Belt: Welcoming Economies, Immigrant Entrepreneurship, and Urban Resilience. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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Elmer, Julia. "Reinventing the Rust Belt: Welcoming Economies, Immigrant Entrepreneurship, and Urban Resilience." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Ohio State University, 2016. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 15 Dec 2017.

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Elmer, Julia "Reinventing the Rust Belt: Welcoming Economies, Immigrant Entrepreneurship, and Urban Resilience." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Ohio State University, 2016. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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Full text release has been delayed at the author's request until August 09, 2021