When Stacey Johnson-Pulliam lost her job in Greensboro during the Great Recession, she and her husband, Chris Pulliam, moved to Salem for a new opportunity.
They passed out cookies in their cul-de-sac. Neighbors were friendly. Six years later, the couple moved to Roanoke. That transition, Pulliam told a couple of dozen residents Tuesday at the Williamson Road branch library, was “like night and day.”
“Apparently there’s a lot of beef between these two cities,” he said.
How friendly is Roanoke? How welcoming? Those are some of many questions city leaders hope to answer in the coming months as it goes about the creation of a plan to make the area attractive to newcomers, particularly foreign-born immigrants.
As a first step in that “Welcoming Roanoke Plan,” the city hosted a presentation on Tuesday of new research showing how immigrants contribute to the tax base and economy in the Roanoke region.
Roanoke was one of 14 communities nationwide this year to win a grant through two groups that have provided research and training for that effort — New American Economy, an immigration-reform group launched in 2010 by then-New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and CEOs of major companies, and Welcoming America, a nonprofit that helps communities come up with immigration plans.
“The conversation around immigration is too often an emotional one and not a fact-based one,” said Rich André of the New American Economy, who presented the group’s research.