Cummins Inc. and International Business

Indiana city sees many high-skilled immigrants

July 19, 2012

Companies based in a central Indiana city are hiring a greater percentage of people with visas for high-skilled foreign workers than any place in the U.S. other than California's Silicon Valley, according to a new study.

A majority of the nearly 630 of the H-1B visas visas obtained by companies in Columbus went to Cummins Inc. and LHP Software, The Republic reported Thursday.

A report by the Washington-based Brookings Institution think tank said Columbus employers in the past two years requested 14.6 such visas per 1,000 workers, trailing only the 17.1 per 1,000 workers sought in the San Jose area.

In the most recent allotment, Cummins obtained 300 H-1B visas, including about 210 for the engine maker's Columbus-area facilities.

"There's just not enough U.S.-born talent to satisfy the demand in the labor market," said Lorrie Meyer, executive director of global talent management for Cummins.

She said the ability to hire such immigrant workers is important because about half of the country's college graduates from science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs are foreign-born.

Cummins also wants a diversified workforce that reflects its customers and suppliers around the world, in part because international students bring different experiences and language skills to the company, Meyer said.

George Devidze, in-house counsel for LHP Software, is a native of the former Soviet republic of Georgia who remained in the United States under an H-1B visa after graduating from Indiana University's law school in Indianapolis.

Devidze, who's now a U.S. citizen, said the company faces a major constraint on its growth because of the difficulty in hiring engineers despite aggressive recruitment efforts.

"If we could find 80 or 90 qualified people, we'd hire all of them," he said.

For the most recent fiscal year, the company obtained 80 visas, Devidze said. Nearly all of LHP's visas go to international students who are graduating from U.S. colleges.

Raj Patil, a native of India, joined LHP last month after graduating from Clemson University with a master's degree in mechanical engineering.

He's working with LHP under a program that allows some foreign-born graduates of U.S. colleges to remain in the country for a year to work in their field.

Patil hopes LHP will be able to obtain an H-1B visa for him to stay in Columbus longer.

"I like the city," he said. "It has everything I need. And the most important part is the job."

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