From the Middle East to the Motor City

More than 500,000 people of Middle Eastern descent live in metro Detroit, and, combined, they generated $36.4 billion in economic activity in 2015. While the road to self-reliance can take years due to language and cultural barriers, the influx of refugees has been a boon to the regional economy.


Published:

(page 1 of 7)

 

Martin manna is the president of both the Chaldean Community foundation and the Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce in Bingham Farms.

Just east of the new Chaldean Community Foundation building on 15 Mile Road in Sterling Heights, an aging strip mall that was nearly deserted a couple of years ago is undergoing aneconomic and cultural revival that is transforming Sterling Heights and neighboring communities into the Dearborn of metro Detroit’s far northeast side.

As far back as the 1920s, waves of Lebanese immigrants rebuilt East Dearborn into the largest Middle Eastern enclave in America. More recently, refugees fleeing more than a decade of sectarian violence and civil wars in Iraq and Syria are putting an Arabic and Chaldean face on Sterling Heights, neighboring Madison Heights, Warren, and, to a lesser extent, Troy, the Bloomfield communities, Shelby Township, Macomb Township, and other area neighborhoods.    

Since 1980, the number of people from the Middle East coming to metro Detroit has tripled, and those immigrants now total more than 500,000 people — 350,000 Arab-Americans and 150,000 Chaldeans — accounting for 10 percent of the region’s population. The influx has accelerated since 2008, and has served to repopulate neighborhoods, office centers, and retail establishments affected adversely by the global financial crisis.

As additional refugees arrive, President Obama’s commitment to accept more immigrants from war-torn areas of Iraq and Syria will generate additional economic activity. Still, some are concerned that, as the United States seeks to offer assistance to tens of thousands of people fleeing attacks in the Middle East and northern Africa by ISIS, terrorists might be able to infiltrate our borders.  

Open Our Arms and Trust, But Verify // Click Here

In response, the White House has said all refugees that have applied to enter the United States will be subject to intense and lengthy security background checks. While some argue the addition of foreign citizens takes away from economic opportunities for Americans, Arab and Chaldean-American officials point out that the areas where immigrants have chosen to reside and work in metro Detroit were largely abandoned or deteriorating.

“We grew up as Christians in Baghdad, and when Saddam Hussein came to power, our family had to leave,” says Sam Simon, chairman and CEO of Simon Group Holdings in Taylor, which includes Atlas Oil Co., Atlas Transportation, and Fast Track Ventures, among other companies.

“When my parents and us five kids arrived in Michigan, we stayed in the basement of a church, and the priest said he was going to ask the parishioners to help us out. But my dad said he didn’t want the money, he wanted work. He wanted a job. So he worked at the parish, then got a job in a bakery, and then a gas station, and our family took it from there. Hard work and the kind support of metro Detroiters is the reason for our success.”

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Q&A: Chris Thomas

Chris Thomas is a co-founder of Fontinalis Partners, a venture capital firm in downtown Detroit focused exclusively on investing in technology companies that improve next-generation mobility.

Line of Flight

A longer runway at Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, new golf courses and wineries, upgraded resorts, and revamped marketing campaigns are attracting more tourism in northern Michigan.

Integrating Circuits

Not since Detroit absorbed California hot-rod culture have the Motor City and the Golden State embraced each other so tight. The quest to perfect self-driving cars and find innovative mobility solutions made it happen. Is this the biggest story in American business?

2018 Champions of the New Economy

For the ninth straight year, DBusiness has selected five regional executives who are driving growth in the technology sector.

Uptown and Downtown

A strong economy, low vacancy rates, and rising demand for residences and offices are transforming downtown Birmingham like never before.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Downtown Royal Oak Restaurant Closed Due to City Center Development
    Andiamo Trattoria along Main Street in downtown Royal Oak has closed, citing a lack of parking...
  2. Motorcycle Gear Store Opens in Detroit’s Milwaukee Junction
    Clutch and Throttle, a shop in Detroit that offers motorcycle protective gear, apparel, and...
  3. Michigan Releases Hot 50 Jobs Outlook through 2026, Includes Annual Wage Projections
    The Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget Wednesday released the latest...
  4. Wayne State University in Detroit Offers 50-Percent Tuition Discount to Active Military
    Wayne State University has announced active military members currently serving in the U.S. Armed...
  5. Wayne County Circuit Court Issues Temporary Restraining Order Against Detroit Public Schools Over Planned Facilities Maintenance Contract
    On Monday, Judge John H. Gillis Jr. in the Circuit Court for the County of Wayne will hear oral...
  6. Farmington Hills’ Level One Bank Doubles Mortgage Division
    Level One Bank in Farmington Hills Monday announced it will double the size of its mortgage...