When Corp! arrives on the scene to meet our Cover Story subjects, it’s always amazing to find out that they’re not only successful but also genuinely nice people.
That certainly was the case with Bing Goei, the Director of the Office for New Americans, a new position initiated by Gov. Snyder in January 2014. According to Goei, “we are working very hard in our office to bring a different picture to immigration.”
The first part of the experience was awesome – we arrived as a trio separately (myself as the writer, Rosh Sillars as the photographer and Eric Wheelwright as the videographer) in Lansing. The beauty of that summer day was all around us, and seeing the capitol building reminded us how important our meeting was going to be that day.
Goei greeting us warmly, shaking hands with everyone in the room. He impressed us with how casual he was in personality – everything about him made you feel comfortable. He looked you in the eye. He asked questions about your trip in that day. He was curious about our setup and the process of the interview. You couldn’t have felt more at home in his presence.
Yet, there he was, dressed to the nines in a suit and tie. He is the CEO of Eastern Floral company, a top 50 Teleflora florist with seven West Michigan locations. He has built new organizations, such as the International Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence, a business incubator offering space to up-and-coming entrepreneurs in Grand Rapids. He has run for public office alongside Gov. Rick Snyder. He’s a big fish in a small pond, in other words.
Goei told us many stories that day – stories of how he was raised in a big family. Stories of his own immigration trip to America by way of the Netherlands. Tales of how his experience as a newcomer to the United States so long ago made him a perfect fit for this new state job – although he didn’t know it at the time.
One of the most important things he did that day was pull at our heartstrings. He told a story about his father and his struggles with finding employment that used his teaching experience. His father was a man of great character, it is clear. Goei had tears in his eyes as he talked about his dad’s life and the slow climb he had to make as an immigrant here. We all felt the same way throughout that moment, crushed at the inequality such a good man experienced.
That is why he understands the struggles of the modern immigrant. That is why his heart is fully in his job. That is why Goei is such a role model for today’s youth – he gets how important accepting these new citizens is to Michigan. He and Gov. Snyder are clearly on the same page when it comes to their views about accepting people and their cultures in our state. It was inspiring.
“It helped me to have this diversity in my life,” Goei said. “That is why I encourage our young people to be vulnerable to other cultures and other thinking. My international experiences and different cultural experiences has allowed me to understand a market that’s very diverse culturally.”
Our favorite quote from the interview – which Eric Wheelwright called one of the best of his career – goes something like this:
“Hopefully the experiences I’ve had will help me change the conversation about immigration and immigrants,” Goei said. “It will help me change the picture about the benefits that we have to increase our quality of life when we take advantages of the many wonderful strengths, abilities and skills that everyone has whether you’re a recent immigrant or someone who has lived here for many, many years.”
To read more of our Cover Story with Bing Goei, click here.