DRIVERS OF CHANGE
In addition to statistical analysis, we conducted interviews with residents and leaders in both communities, conducted four focus groups and added information from planning documents, research studies and Global Detroit’s experience working in Detroit’s neighborhoods, to identify the driving forces behind immigration in our two study neighborhoods.
Jobs as Generators of Immigration and as Pathways to Success
Many Bangladeshis already in the United States moved to the Detroit area based on word-of-mouth information about job opportunities. A cluster of employers in the automotive sector in Detroit’s suburbs were well-known in the Bangladeshi community as firms that hired Bangladeshi workers. Among these employers, the presence of a large Bangla-speaking workforce provided a support system, while as these work destinations became established, an informal network of jitneys emerged to transport workers from Banglatown/Davison to their suburban jobs. In Chadsey Condon, many Dominican and other Spanish-speaking workers were able to attain employment at Mexican Industries, a now-defunct, Latinx-owned auto supplier. The need for more workers at this and other automotive suppliers and facilities encouraged Dominican and Mexican residents to recruit relatives and friends to come to Detroit.
The Pull of Community
The cultural support system that has developed in these neighborhoods has created a strong sense of community that not only draws immigrants to these neighborhoods, but encourages them to purchase homes and build strong neighborhood connections. This is particularly strong in Banglatown, where Conant Street today offers over 100 stores, services and community institutions serving the Bangladeshi and Yemeni communities.
Housing as Opportunity
Homeownership is seen by many immigrant families as a springboard for prosperity. They often utilize nontraditional or informal methods to purchase homes and rehab vacant properties, both for themselves and as investments. An informal network of contractors, craftspeople, realtors and others sustains these nontraditional paths to homeownership.
Small business is a significant source of income and wealth building for immigrant entrepreneurs, and a powerful catalyst for commercial corridor revitalization. Immigrant entrepreneurs have transformed Conant Avenue into a vibrant shopping destination.
Immigrant residents in both neighborhoods feel largely disconnected from local government and municipal services. Despite the strong ties immigrants have to their neighborhoods, their lack of connection to local government may spur suburban out-migration unless they can be more strongly engaged with their neighbors and the city as a whole.