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Could Immigrants Drive the Revival of American Manufacturing?

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Last week, an immigrant-founded company called A123 Systems, headquartered outside Boston, opened an electric car battery-production plant in Livonia, Michigan that is slated to create 3,000 jobs over the next three years.

Congrats to the extraordinary founders of the company: Desh Desphande, an immigrant from India; Yet-Ming Chiang, an immigrant from Taiwan; and Ric Fulop, an immigrant from Venezuela --immigrant Americans that are creating jobs for Americans.

The story behind A123 Systems is fascinating, as are the struggles and triumphs of its immigrant-American founders.

A123 Systems was featured in the 2009 book, Immigrant, Inc. -- Why Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Driving the New Economy (and how they will save the American worker).

As outlined in the book, America's antiquated immigration system bears little connection to our country's needs to innovate, create start-ups, attract foreign direct investment, and ramp-up exports in a hyper-competitive global economy.

Our current immigration dinosaur system was built for the 1950s, not the 21st century.

As the country puts out the unwelcome sign to immigrants -- both low-skilled and high-skilled -- America is falling further and further behind in the race to invent and commercialize new technologies that invent new products, turbocharge high-end manufacturing, and sell overseas.

Immigrant innovators and entrepreneur are increasingly leaving the U.S. , in part due to immigration barriers and embarrassing delays, and in part to pursue new opportunities in their homeland -- or in third countries that are recruiting them, such as Canada, Singapore, Australia, Russia, Chile, etc.

Consider America's secret weapon: immigrant entrepreneurs and innovators.

As outlined in Immigrant, Inc., studies by researcher and entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa found that 25% of the technology and engineering companies started between 1995 and 2005 had an immigrant founder.

To the surprise of some in the Rust Belt, Michigan enjoyed a higher percentage of immigrant entrepreneurship than the average state throughout the country.

In Michigan, 33% of the tech companies formed between 1995 and 2005 had an immigrant founder.

In my home state, Ohio, only 14% of the tech companies during that period had an immigrant founder -- while the number jumps to 50% in Silicon Valley.

Compared to people like me -- American-born -- immigrants are more likely to start a business, invent something, earn an advanced degree, and have intimate knowledge of global markets.

As A123 Systems reminds us, America should be leveraging our immigrant advantage to jump-start manufacturing, and subsequently create new jobs and new industries for Americans.

Here's to hoping that President Obama and the GOP leadership can come together and tell this story to the American people, rather than than the normal stories we usually hear about immigration reform.

Let's not forget about how how immigration reform could turbocharge our economy and create jobs and new industries for America. Let's not be consumed by talks about Arizona, a Fourteenth Amendment repeal, and all the other discussions distracting from the real immigration issues.

Let's extend our congratulations to Desh and the co-founders of A123 Systems and welcome other immigrants who are in a great position to help drive America's push for energy independence and clean technology -- and create the millions of new blue and white collar jobs that will come with it.

A123 Systems seems to have found a nice home for production -- in Michigan.

Immigrants from around the country, and from around the world, are discovering the benefits of doing business in Michigan.

While we wait for the country to embrace its immigrant heritage and immigrant advantage in the global economy, the question I will leave you with is:

Is your state immigrant-friendly?