A Community Dialogue on Economic Opportunity and Integration


Series presented by the World Affairs Council of Maine

in special partnership with the Maine Immigrant Rights Coalition  

    The series already happened in 2015!


The Final Report is now available!
here to download or email Amy at aholland@wacmaine.org for a printed copy.

Click here to download the Rapporteur's Summaries of all the events.


We are excited to announce an upcoming series on a critically important issue globally and locally - immigration and its potential for very positive impacts on the Greater Portland region, particularly on the economy.  This project, Celebrating Immigration, will undertake a community dialogue through a series of event between January and June 2015. Involving many sectors in the community dialogue, including our members, immigrant groups, government, nonprofit, business, labor, faith, and philanthropy, we will examine barriers to economic opportunity and best strategies and approaches to fully integrate immigrants into the regional economy. Please join us for this important dialogue!


January 13, 2015 4:00-6:30 pm / Hannaford Hall, University of Southern Maine, Portland Campus
Opening forum on the theme of "Celebrating Immigration" and strategic economic opportunities presented by immigration. Featuring keynotes by James Tierney and Eva Millona, responses by community leaders, discussion, and refreshments

Read the keynote speeches here: James Tierney 1.13.15; Millona 1.13.15.                

Rapporteur's Summary: “If immigrants succeed, we all benefit.  If they do not succeed, we all pay the price.” In a frigid January dusk, the sliding doors of USM's Hannaford Hall unloosed a slap of single-digit outside temperatures - but the interior was warmed by anticipation, skepticism, and cautious hope. Who are we? Where can we go together?


Laughing at the familiar shock of the cold, a steady stream of people tramped up the lobby stairs to hang up their bulky coats and scarves.  They filed past a contingent of Portland’s high school students, who wore the clothing of American teenagers mixed with the traditions of their forebears from other nations.  The young people distributed nametags at the check-in tables and, greeting the guests who were clearly grateful to be indoors, said, “Welcome.” Gathering to find their seats, audience members from different ancestral roots turned toward one another. Some twisted toward the row behind them, some leaned forward to talk about this first event in a 6-month series on immigration and prosperity, even before it started. 

Read more....

February 25, 2015 4:00-6:30 pm / Rines Auditorium, Portland Public Library
Panel discussion and dialogue on immigrant small businesses and entrepreneurs as a key component of our region's economy, the challenges faced and opportunities for economic impact. Refreshments and networking will follow the discussion.  

Rapporteur's Summary: Glass-walled, lofted, and warm, the Portland Public Library’s street-level community sitting room and cafe gave respite from the darkness falling in the coldest February on record.  Inside this living room for the city, an array of people gathered quietly to read iPads, research college papers, drink something warm, or email family outside the U.S. – while others headed into Rines auditorium for the second event in the Celebrating Immigration series. "We want to be your neighbors, to create jobs, to pay taxes.  We want to be part of you."


The topic for the evening was “Immigrant Entrepreneurship and Business Success.”  The gathering at Rines was about to get down to business. 


World Affairs Council of Maine’s Executive Director Amy Holland welcomed the almost full house – a rich mix of youth, business people, series sponsors, service providers, entrepreneurs, foundations, those in government, and families – the sectors, she said, that need to come together to grapple with how immigrants can start businesses and make them sustainable.  What works?  What’s in the way? How do we overcome it?


Read more....

March 18, 2015 7:00-9:00 am / Holiday Inn by the Bay

A breakfast program that builds on the previous two programs with calls to action from sector leaders and facilitated small group discussions of solutions in the areas of business leadership, government leadership, education leadership, and workforce development
Rapporteur's Summary:                   


“Crystallize one or two things to take to state leadership and ask if they are willing to play long ball toward something that is not dependent on cultural anger.  Tell our own stories, tell our own kids our stories, and take them through the necessary stages forward to economic initiative and prosperity.  It is we – not just teachers – who need to show them the prize.”


By 6:30 a.m., the first of about 90 people from across Greater Portland began to settle in at round tables for small groups at the Holiday Inn by the Bay.  Quiet, concentrated, and fortified with hot breakfast and coffee against the strong March winds outside, they prepared themselves to brainstorm potential solutions to the challenges of immigrant economic integration.  Flip charts were at the ready, as were copies of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce’s and the Maine Development Foundation’s Making Maine Work.  Early problem-solving in the third event in the Celebrating Immigration series was under way. 

May 1, 2015 4:00 pm / Portland Public Library and Congress Square Arts District

Planned in partnership with Creative Portland, this program will look at the creative arts community as an economic sector leader for developing strategies for integrating immigrants into our regional economy. An afternoon workshop will be followed by a First Friday celebration of cultural diversity.

Rapporteur's Summary:

It was May 1 - a sunny, if admittedly chilly, late afternoon in Maine's emerging spring - and for a change, people attending the Celebrating Immigration series did not blow in the doors on a burst of wind. This evening, as fellow Portlanders strolled on Congress Street and into the Portland Public Library's art galleries for the city's First Friday Art Walk, a gathering in Rines Auditorium prepared to exchange ideas on Immigrants and the Creative Economy. There was to be a sense of personal fulfillment in the presentations at the fourth event of the series. New Mainers had, after all, been making art on their own initiative for years, following their gifts as artists the world over do. No application, no permission was needed. But the realities of economic survival still applied.
June 8, 2015  5-7:30 pm / Ocean Gateway

A final celebratory event featuring presentation of an Immigration Economic Opportunity Agenda for Greater Portland and a social event that "celebrates immigration" with music and food.

Thank you to our Premier Sponsors for supporting this series!  

City of Portland

Sam L. Cohen Foundation

Barber Foods/AdvancePierre Foods

Program Sponsors

Androscoggin Bank
Avesta Housing
DiMillo's on the Water
Landis Arn & Jaynes, P.A., Providing Immigration Legal Services Since 1980
 HM Payson
Hub Furniture
Lamey Wellehan Shoes
Preti Flaherty
Bernstein Shur
United Way of Greater Portland
University of Southern Maine





Celebrating Immigration Advisory Committee
Catholic Charities
Community Financial Literacy

Congolese Community of Maine

Creative Portland

Growing Portland

Hope Acts

Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project

Maine Association of New Americans

Maine Council of Churches

Maine DHHS Office of Multicultural Affairs

Maine Historical Society

Maine Immigrants' Rights Coalition

Maine Irish Heritage Center

New Mainers Resource Center

Portland Public Library

Portland Public Schools

Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce

United Way of Greater Portland

Welcoming Immigrants Network

World Affairs Council of Maine

Management Team

Alain Nahimana, MIRC Coordinator

Clement Yombe, Representative of CFL in MIRC

Amy Holland, World Affairs Council of Maine

Tim Honey, World Affairs Council of Maine


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