“It was taking the notion of being welcoming and friendly and
inclusive when it comes to economic growth,” he said. “In having
those conversations, my profile was obviously raised in being
introduced to other people outside the state.”
Torres credits a watershed moment over the summer at a national
conference in Louisville, KY, where he met a group from Detroit.
That led to a series of interviews and his eventual hiring.
The Swanton, Ohio native started his new role in September and
has spent the past few weeks meeting community leaders during
the week and attending weekend events such as the Global
Detroit Gala and a celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day
with a Peace and Dignity ceremony held on the Spirt of
Detroit Plaza and organized by fellow Latino leaders such as
Detroit city councilwoman Raquel Castañeda López and
chief-of-staff Mariana C. Martínez, MPA.
“I’m in the process of putting together my 100-day plan that
would be presented to the mayor and my chief,” he said. “From
there, it’s going to be laying out the strategy on where to go.”
Torres emphasized that plan will heavily include economic
opportunity for immigrants—from housing to ensuring services are
provided to immigrants and refugees properly. Those efforts
won’t just focus on the Latino community. He is meeting with
representatives from Detroit’s many immigrant constituencies—
the African, Caribbean, Bangladeshi, and Arab-American
communities, among others.
To that end, Torres attended the Asian and Pacific American
Chamber of Commerce (APACC) gala last week, which celebrated
entrepreneurs from across Southeast Michigan. Each event lends
itself to an opportunity to make contacts and exchange ideas on
Torres credits 70-year old Bing Goei as a mentor, the
first director of the Michigan Office for New Americans
[MONA], who recently retired from state government after
leading that agency from its inception in 2014. The Indonesian
immigrant carried out Gov. Rick Snyder’s vision for harnessing
the potential of immigrants and refugees and their ability to
reinvigorate and diversify Michigan’s economy.
That office is staffed with four full-time employees and an
annual budget approaching half a million dollars. The
department’s duties include coordinating
all executive branch agencies
responsible for programs servicing immigrants, engaging in state
and federal advocacy concerning immigration law and policy, and
also publishing guides aimed specifically at immigrants that
spell out requirements to get an occupational license.
Ohio Gov. John
recently established a similar effort in Ohio by executive
Torres will take the knowledge gained from his mentors and also
interface with city department heads and the Detroit business
community to see what still needs to be done.
“It’s been a very exciting first month and really making some
great partnerships,” he said. “I’m really excited about what we
can do with services and opportunities for our communities.”
Torres believes his background in city government—first in
multiple roles in Toledo and as economic development director in
Canton, Ohio—have prepared him for his current Detroit role.
“The fact that I’m working with elected officials, working with
school leadership, just every avenue that I’m touching on I’ve
been acting based on my past positions,” he explained.
Torres moved to a loft in downtown Detroit in late October,
directly across the river from Windsor, Ontario, Canada. He’ll
have a scenic view of the soon-to-be Ambassador Bridge,
along with a key role ensuring immigrant groups get to share in
that work and the economic prosperity that is expected to result
from downtown Detroit’s renaissance, as companies return and
invest in the Motor City.
“It’s exciting to be on the ground for all this. There’s a lot
of money that’s now being put into development there in the
downtown. All you have to do is look at the cost of housing,” he
said. “In some places, it’s more than tripled and that’s because
there is a renewed sense of optimism.”
The new role for Torres also solves another problem—the tug of
his hometown and ties that were tough to maintain in Grand
Rapids, more than a three-hour drive from Toledo.
“I remain a Browns, Indians, and Cavs fan,” he said with a
laugh. “That’s not going to change no matter where I go. The
other benefit of being in Detroit is I’m only minutes away from
my family and friends in Toledo. It will still keep me
well-rooted with my family. I’m not too far.”
On the Internet: http://www.globaltiesdetroit.org/