By YANAN CHEN
Capital News Service
LANSING—Dan Redford graduated from Michigan State University with a double major in international relations and Chinese in 2010. Because his roommate was learning Chinese, he fell in love with the language and chose it as second major.
But he never expected one day to become a bridge between two countries.
But now he is as the director of U.S. China Creative Space, a local nonprofit organization that aims to better connect Chinese college students who live in the U.S. with U.S. society and companies.
Redford, 22, said he and the organization wish to show those students that they have opportunities to stay in the U.S. after graduation and contribute to the Michigan economy.
“In Gov. Rick Snyder’s State of the State address, he talked specifically about making our state more friendly to immigrants, particularly students in universities,” Redford said.
“Statistically speaking, foreign students are more concentrated in scientific fields, studying engineering, science, technology and mathematics, as compared to Americans in general,” he said. “Most high-tech companies who started in Michigan over the last fifteen years have, on average, at least two foreign-born employees.”
Redford said foreign-born university students can speed up the revitalization of the Michigan economy.
Redford also said that if he and his organization can build a bridge to the Chinese community and help Chinese students find jobs or start businesses, it may create jobs in the state.
“Every time I went to meetings and met the local chief executive officers and presidents, I never heard anyone say ‘it is bad, and we do not welcome Chinese people here,’ ” Redford said.
“They want to develop relationships with Chinese students and they want Chinese students to stay here so that they can help develop Michigan’s economic growth,” he said. “Diversity is always a good thing.”
The U.S. China Creative Space is starting to bridge local connections and networks of businesses, which is one of its objectives.
The Space wants to stay in Michigan and help Chinese students become familiar with the American culture and companies.
“We have seven or eight companies already involved in providing internship opportunities,” he said.
Those companies include Capitol National Bank and Rehmann Group, an accounting and consulting firm in Lansing.
Capitol National will provide opportunities for 15 Chinese students to have an “employment tour,” which aims to get them close to American companies.
Paula Cunningham, the bank’s chief executive officer, said it will hold the “employment tour” on April 14.
“We will invite Chinese students to come to our bank and interact with our employees and have some dialogues to be familiar with what we do here and what our community wants,” she said.
She said the bank will provide an internship position for Chinese students, because “we want our bank to be more inclusive.”
A lot of trade is going on with other countries, and she said hiring international employees could help develop trade with other countries.
As for the difficulty of accepting Chinese interns and offering them jobs, Redford said, “those companies did show strong interest in doing this, and don’t forget the purpose is to grow our local economy.”
The Space also works to set up relationships with companies in China that want to expand their businesses to the U.S.
Redford said, “What we are doing is informally helping Americans who are interested in working in China to connect with Chinese companies.”
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, foreign-controlled companies provided 150,600 work positions in Michigan in 2008. Foreign investment in Michigan was responsible for 4.2 percent of the state’s total private-industry employment.
Michael Shore, the director of corporate communications for the Michigan Economic Development Corp., said, “Up to now, international companies employed more than 164,000 Michigan citizens.
“We welcome foreign companies,” he said.
“We are very interested in doing trade with other countries and also welcome them to locate here to do business,” Shore said. “The benefit they bring is jobs.”
Michigan now has more than 4,720 companies with foreign ownership. There are 677 Germany companies in the state, 749 from Japan and 14 from China, Shore said.
© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.