As the national workforce shortage persists and is further exacerbated by the nation’s large aging population moving into retirement, businesses across the country are seeking solutions to address workforce needs and fill open positions. Many chambers of commerce have continued to present a solution: modernizing an outdated immigration system to better meet the needs of the local, state, and national economies.

In October, the American Immigration Council saw these efforts in action. The Council partnered with the Greater Houston Partnership for the seventh annual Global Talent Chamber Network (GTCN) Convening in Houston, Texas. The event brought together chambers from states across the United States, including Texas, Michigan, Kentucky, and Ohio, to learn from experts and one another about how the business community can collaborate more closely with its immigrant and refugee neighbors to ensure a more equitable future where everyone can thrive and ensure newcomers can contribute their skills to their local community and economy.

Council staff provided attendees with an overview of the federal landscape and sharing opportunities where the business community voice is most important. For instance, chambers can weigh in on federal legislation that impacts the workforce needs of their member businesses— from securing protections for thousands of Afghans to addressing case backlogs and providing legal pathways for asylum seekers to enter the workforce.

Next, Texans for Economic Growth lead a conversation between local chambers to discuss their work to build and sustain coalitions. These coalitions help drive conversations between stakeholders about immigration and its intersection with local workforce needs and economic development. The Texas-based chambers shared how they have become resources for local, state, and federal leaders to better understand the landscape and needs of their community.

Chambers then shared best practices in utilizing data, monitoring state and federal legislation, and uplifting the economic impacts of immigration to engage partners across the political spectrum. These strategies have allowed them to successfully engage community leaders and stakeholders who might not typically weigh in on immigration to find solutions. Chambers pointed out that many of their members seek out opportunities to bring in international talent, but barriers created by the current outdated immigration system often make the process complex, time-consuming, and sometimes infeasible.

The convening concluded with a site visit to an early-stage life sciences development group based in Houston. Fannin has over a dozen active biotech and MedTech programs which rely heavily on international talent to help advance ideas of innovation and new technology. Attendees learned about Fannin’s current projects on biomedical advances and gained a better understanding of how businesses can invest in immigration pathways and programs to engage the international talent pool.

As chamber leaders prepared to return to their respective communities, they expressed their commitment to shaping a future where everyone can pursue economic and social opportunities. They hoped to build a business community that recognizes the importance of efforts that strengthen local economies, address workforce needs, and utilize the skills that immigrants bring.