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Thursday, 13 February 2014 09:58

Q&A: Bing Goei, Director, Michigan Office of New Americans

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Bing Goei Bing Goei COURTESY PHOTO

When Bing Goei received a recent call from Gov. Rick Snyder’s chief of staff, he was already in the process of transitioning out of his role as CEO of Eastern Floral and Gift Shop because he planned to turn his attention to a business incubator for entrepreneurial immigrants. The governor wanted Goei, an immigrant from Indonesia, to launch the state’s Office for New Americans. Realizing that his mission aligned with the governor’s, he accepted. He sat down with MiBiz to discuss the new role and the economic potential of immigrants.

What will happen with Eastern Floral?

It will continue to be one of the top 50 florists in the country, at least I hope so. My son (Jason Goei) and the executive team is already in place. It’s a seamless transition. They’ve all been in the business for a long time. I think the passion that I started with will continue on with my son and my sister (Jane Goei) and the executive team. So I don’t see too much of a change.

What are some of the goals you have as you transition into the statewide role?

We know that in the state of Michigan by the year 2018, we have to fill 274,000 STEM field jobs. That is 40,000 to 50,000 jobs per year. We know that we don’t have that many U.S.-born, Michigan residents going into those STEM-related industries. We also know there’s maybe 1,900 international students who are pursuing advanced degrees in STEM-field academia, and there’s probably another 4,000 who are only pursuing it up to a bachelor’s degree. The governor is saying that we have to find a way to keep that talent here. ... We are going to work with the federal government and we are going to try and encourage these young people to stay in Michigan.

What are the tools at your disposal?

The goal is to use what is called “EB-2” visas (employment-based visas). He (Gov. Snyder) is also encouraging the federal government to give us some specific numbers of those EB-2 visas for people who are willing to work and live in the city of Detroit. He’s going to meet the skill needs of Detroit and he’s going to help with the re-population of Detroit.

Any others?

He also wants to do the EB-5 program (a federal program to incentivize foreign investment). He has asked the federal government to designate the state as an “EB-5 Regional Center State.” If given, we will be only the second state in the nation (after Vermont) to have this designation. The EB-5 regional center requirements are more flexible than the EB-5 direct investment program. It’s a very innovative way to bring new investment dollars that doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything.

What are some short-term possibilities for West Michigan?

There are 40,000 EB-2 visas allocated (nationally). We are asking that 5,000 be set aside for the city of Detroit. So if (someone) applies and they have a good talent match for a company, you have a good chance of getting the visas. The EB-5 investment program is available for everybody. And West Michigan has already had some conversations on these areas.

What are you hearing from the business community in West Michigan regarding the issue of immigration?

The business leaders in West Michigan have been very excited about this office and my appointment and they are wanting to help me in moving this agenda forward. My office is looking at not only what we can do in the public sector, but I’m beginning to make appointments with the private sector. We need the business community to understand this issue and to understand the nuances of the employment-based visas and the benefits that brings to them. I believe that once they understand all of that, they will be fully in support.

What did the immigrant entrepreneurs at the Goei Center need the most?

The young entrepreneurs coming in were either brand-new startups or were outgrowing their home (offices) and looking for a more professional environment to grow their business and entertain their clients. We really try and create a very nice-looking environment (at the Goei Center) and they also have access to our boardroom. This allows them to potentially invite a larger number of clients.

Read 4396 times Last modified on Thursday, 13 February 2014 10:03

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