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Thursday, April 10, 2014 12:01 am

Diversity is good for business

 When thinking of immigration reform, we must ask ourselves what we want for the country. From a business perspective, important goals to aim for are innovation and entrepreneurship. And although there’s no simple recipe for achieving them, one key ingredient is diversity.

Smart business leaders know this. The most successful corporations strive to be the “Employer of Choice,” looking to recruit the best and brightest in a multicultural marketplace. They know they need the best skills and talent to deliver the innovation that leads to the best products and service in an increasingly competitive economy. They also appreciate that in a dynamic market – be it national or local, understanding and capitalizing on trends starts with a diverse workforce.

Immigration reform, done well, can help achieve all this. And it will deliver broad economic benefits and boost local economies. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that immigration reform would increase real Gross Domestic Product relative to current law projections by 3.3 percent in 2023 and 5.4 percent in 2033 – an increase of roughly $700 billion in 2023 and $1.4 trillion in 2033 in today’s dollars.

In business terms, immigration reform would increase America’s value proposition. There are more than 52 million Hispanics in the U.S. That makes us home to the second largest Hispanic population in the world. And it is our country’s fastest growing market. Fortune 100 companies have already seen this opportunity and have begun investing in ways to turn a profit on changing demographics. In addition, the economy will benefit from the launching of thousands of new companies, run by immigrants who bring with them an intense commitment to a free and open market system. The result: thousands upon thousands of new jobs and billions in new sales and income tax revenues.

A.A. Gill, author of America The Marvelous, in his book describes a critical point when Europe, ripe with “ideas and discoveries, philosophies and visions,” gave way to the creation of the United States. He worries that the U.S. may be at that point “where the ideas that made us great are being stifled by the conventions and hierarchies that govern us.”

Looking at the issue of immigration through a smart business lens can help us to realize the full potential of the rich resource we have created. We can learn from corporations that have implemented best practices when it comes to diversity and inclusion. They are reaping massive rewards in the form of growth and profits. We can do the same as a country.

America’s rich culture of diversity includes generations of families who have come to be a part of the fabric of our country, who have helped to grow businesses, and who have enriched nearly every aspect of our culture. Our children play together and go to school together. We are co-workers at some of the fastest growing companies in the economy. We pray together in churches all around the country. When we have embraced diversity, it has made us happier, stronger and more prosperous.

Moving forward, what makes the best business sense is to find a way to grant citizenship to those who are now a part of the melting pot that the world has voted the “Best Place to Live.” The business and economic benefits are striking. We would increase our tax base and workforce pool, spur entrepreneurship, enhance our global standing, and fuel the innovation that has been a trademark of “Made in America.”

By granting legal status to members of our communities, neighbors, fellow church members, business owners and co-workers, we will unleash their contributions of hard work and innovation. The benefit is more prosperity for all of us.

MaryAnne Howland is president and CEO of Ibis Communications, Inc., a marketing agency based in Nashville, Tenn., and a board member of the American Sustainable Business Council. Made available by American Forum.

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