May 2015

National Small Business Week an opportunity to recognize contributions of immigrant small businesses.National Small Business Week, which has occurred each year since 1963, was held in early May to recognize the contributions of entrepreneurs and small business owners in the United States. This was also a good opportunity to acknowledge the critical role Immigrant entrepreneurs play in America’s small business environment. For example, in 2013, immigrants made up 28 percent of “main street” business owners nationally—“main street” businesses are those in the retail, accommodation and food services, and neighborhood services sectors.

Immigrants are key to inclusive economic growth for cities. In a May 22 webinar, hosted by Cities of Migration and Welcoming America, Steve Tobocman, Director of Global Detroit and the WE (Welcoming Economies) Global Network, described ways in which immigrants play a role in local economic growth. The webinar discussion included ideas and best practice examples from Detroit and other cities, challenges for attracting and retaining immigrant skill and talent, and opportunities immigrant welcoming and economic development initiatives present for local places.

St. Louis launches immigrant entrepreneurship advisory board. In early May, local leaders in St. Louis launched an immigrant entrepreneurship advisory board comprised of local immigrant entrepreneurs. This initiative is led by the St. Louis Mosaic Project as part of a comprehensive effort to help entrepreneurs turn their ideas into reality. The announcement came as part of a new resource and information-sharing agreement between the city of St. Louis and the Small Business Administration to boost immigrant-owned businesses in the area.

Louisville Mayor announces new effort to attract and retain skilled immigrants. A May 22 article in Louisville Insider describes the Global Louisville initiative, which Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced this month. According to the mayor, Global Louisville will be the city’s one-stop shop to both increase Louisville’s international business presence and attract (and retain) international talent.

Empowering local entrepreneurs to transform and revitalize neighborhoods. A May 22 article for Cities of Migration highlights the Neighborhood Development Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota. As the article observes, “access to capital is a common challenge faced by immigrant and low-income entrepreneurs…who do not have the assets to invest in their own business ideas and are often unable to qualify for a bank loan. The lack of education and training, often bundled with cultural and language barriers, makes it hard to know where to begin.” The Neighborhood Development Center addresses these challenges and supports entrepreneurs in low-income and ethnic communities across the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul through training and assistance in the development of businesses ideas and incubators for entrepreneurs.

Colombian immigrant embodies entrepreneurial success in Texas. Claudia Mirza, who immigrated to the U.S. from Colombia in 1997, is the CEO and co-founder of Akorbi, as a May 15 article in the Dallas Morning News describes. Akorbi, based in Plano, Texas, began as a home-based language translation company and transformed into a multi-million dollar comprehensive provider of global language, technology, and staffing services with 670 employees. Mirza’s company is worth about $25 million and was recently recognized as one of the 50 fastest-growing women-owned/led companies by the Women Presidents’ Organization.

Immigration to rural communities a source of entrepreneurs. A recent article from Prosperity Watch, focusing on North Carolina, describes how immigration to rural communities is a source of workers, new neighbors, and entrepreneurs. According to the article, in rural counties in particular, “immigration has kept the population in many counties from collapsing.” Additionally, immigrants bring the potential to make economic contributions that boost the broader economy. For example, in North Carolina, immigrants are more likely to be of prime working age, engaged in the labor force, and own more than 20 percent of “Main Street” businesses in the state.

Freeflow Research focuses on boosting Texas job market. A May 18 article highlights Freeflow Research, a non-profit global accelerator based in San Antonio, Texas. Freeflow Research was created to connect foreign-born students, business owners, and investors with resources and opportunities that they need to stay and work in the U.S. The organization’s founders, Peter French and Ricardo Grimaldi, have worked with the City of San Antonio to establish resources for entrepreneurs and to study the financial impact of immigrant entrepreneurs in San Antonio.

New rule allows certain H-4 visa holders to apply for work authorization. As a May 27 article for Immigration Impactdescribes, a new rule concerning certain H-4 spouses (i.e., spouses of H-1B workers) recently went into effect. This new policy, announced as part of the Administration’s package of Executive Actions on immigration, permits certain H-4 visa holders to obtain work authorization where the H-1B visa holder spouse is already on the way to permanent resident status. It is intended to support U.S. high-skilled businesses by helping to attract and retain needed workers who have committed to permanent employment in the United States.