The West Coast has Silicon Valley. The East Coast has Silicon Alley. So what would you call a tech hub on the Third Coast? The Silicon Freeway? Silicon Pot-holed Avenue?
I ask because Amazon believes that Detroit—America’s new favorite underdog—can become the next big technology hub. In fact, the company’s moving several hundred jobs to the Motor City in the next year.
Amazon, the online retailer, said it would establish a technology hub on several floors of the 150 W. Jefferson office tower. Amazon did not give a specific figure, but it said "multiple floors" would be added to its operations, indicating roughly several hundred new workers.
"We are hiring right now, full-time technology jobs," Peter Faricy, vice president of Amazon Marketplace, said at a news event at Cobo Center. "We want this to be the beginning of a technology hub."
On the same day of the Amazon announcement, Lear Corporation, a maker of car seats and electrical distribution systems, said it would be hiring about 150 product and innovative design employees to help fill a Detroit building it bought from Dan Gilbert—the guy who pretty much owns Detroit; he also owns the Cleveland Cavaliers and runs the mortgage giant Quicken Loans, which routinely ranks among the best companies to work for.
[Detroit] Mayor Mike Duggan said at the Lear event, "There was a time five years ago when people thought that downtown was dead and the only person interested in buying buildings was Dan Gilbert. We said you'll know when we've arrived when people start approaching Dan Gilbert and want to buy buildings from him. And today is a significant step in that direction."
On a heavier note, outside Detroit, in the Valley, Alley, and elsewhere, it appears that the abuse of H-1B visas is increasing. Each year, the U.S. allows 85,000 foreigners to work in the country on temporary H-1B visas. The visa system was put into place years ago to help American companies better compete in the global marketplace. The thinking was there were tons of overseas talent with talent that U.S. citizens didn’t have. But as it turns out, companies are increasingly using the visa system as nothing but a way to outsource tech workers to countries such as India.
How it’s working now at firms like Toys R Us and Disney and New York Life is foreigners on the visas are coming here and training to do the exact same jobs that U.S. citizens have been doing, and then the companies are sending the visa holders back to their home countries, paying them cents on the dollar to perform those same jobs, while sacking the U.S. citizens. And often, it’s been these sacked U.S. citizens who’ve had to train their overseas replacements.
In an illuminating expose published earlier this week, the New York Times explains all the gory and, in some cases, ironic details.
But a hard irony for many of the New York Life employees losing jobs to immigrants is that they are immigrants themselves. They came to the United States a generation ago from the Philippines, Eastern European countries, and even India and raised families in this country. They followed the immigration rules — some coming as refugees, others with work visas and computer degrees from their home countries. Most became American citizens.
One technology manager, an immigrant from Europe, recalled that when he was hired at the insurer. “There was an open position that had to be filled,” he said. “Nobody lost their job because I got my job.”
If you’re curious what The Donald thinks about all this H-1B business, here’s his current view (which, oddly, doesn’t include a wall).
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