Immigrant Small Business Owners Go Deep into America’s Heartland
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Now more than ever, the promise of American free enterprise attracts immigrant entrepreneurs to the United States:
Immigrants accounted for 18% of the country's 4.9 million small-business owners in 2010, a six-percentage-point increase from two decades earlier, according to analysis of census data by the nonpartisan Fiscal Policy Institute. Immigrants, who represent 13% of the population, accounted for a third of the increase in the number of small-business owners between 1990 and 2010.
The Wall Street Journal notes that immigrant-owned businesses aren’t just in the largest cities:
In the past decade or so, many Asian and Latin American newcomers have rooted ethnic eateries and grocery stores in small towns in the U.S. heartland. In Schuyler, Neb., a meatpacking town of just 6,211 people, Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants have flocked to B Street, transforming a neighborhood where storefronts had stood vacant for years
"Our downtown is mostly immigrant businesses now," said Mayor David Reinecke. "If they weren't here, we'd be dying."
The Journal chronicles the story of Mexican immigrant Delfino Bello, who runs three popular Mexican restaurants about 40 miles from Chicago.
In 1995, Mr. Bello opened his first eatery, called "El Faro," in a shopping strip in Bartlett, Ill., that had fallen on hard times. As the taqueria flourished, it attracted other businesses. A few years later, he opened restaurants in Elgin and East Dundee, serving a clientele that includes both immigrants and Americans.
The Fiscal Policy Institute report is a good complement to the “Immigrant Entreprenuers” report produced by the U.S. Chamber and the Immigration Policy Center. It offers stories on how immigrant entrepreneurs are improving neighborhoods, adding to economic growth, increasing innovation, and connecting America to global markets. Both reports remind us that immigrants are a key driver of new business starts throughout the country, in a variety of sectors. The U.S. Chamber reports, for example, that while immigrants make up about 14% of the Massachusetts population, they founded over 60% of its new businesses, including some 25% of the state’s biotech businesses.
American free enterprise continues to be a beacon to the world - let's keep it that way.