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While the Dallas-Forth Worth metropolitan area is home to several high-profile companies, such as Exxon Mobil, American Airlines and AT&T, immigrant-led startups are quietly fueling an entrepreneurial boom in the city and boosting local innovation.
One out of every 50 high-tech, foreign-born entrepreneurs in the United States lives in the Dallas-Forth Worth area, according to a 2014 study by the Kauffman Foundation. A similar report published by the American Immigration Council in 2010 found that about a quarter of all Dallas business owners were “foreign-born.”
The high number of immigrant-owned businesses in Dallas is no surprise to Stuart Anderson, executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy.
“Many immigrants by nature are entrepreneurial,” he says. “It’s not surprising that people who are willing to take a chance and move to a new country are willing to risk starting a new business.”
It’s also not surprising, Anderson says, that those immigrant entrepreneurs are having success in high numbers. Many newcomers, particularly in tech hubs like Texas, are highly educated, he explained. Many come to the United States as international students, study technical fields, and then find jobs in the country. As such, they tend to have the skills necessary to build and scale thriving businesses.
Paul Kang is just such a success story. The co-founder of a Dallas-based tech startup called FastVisa—which helps simplify the federal visa process for newcomers—Kang believes the area’s booming immigrant population is one of the city’s greatest entrepreneurial strengths.
“You have some of the best minds from around the world living in Dallas because you have so many Fortune 500 companies here,” he says. “It’s not out of the ordinary for immigrants to try their luck, launch a side business and find success.”
Kang adds that the city’s growing number of newcomers is also adding more financial investment opportunities and creating a more talented workforce.
“Dallas is the perfect place to launch our business –really any business— because there are a lot educated workers that move here to work and are willing to start something new,” Kang says. “For us, it works to be in place where there are high levels of immigrants, but I think any entrepreneur could start here because you have so many talented people here.”
Nevertheless, Anderson says there’s more that can be done to encourage foreign-born entrepreneurs to start job-creating businesses in areas like the Dallas-Fort Worth region and all around the country.
In particular, he notes that non-native entrepreneurs don’t tend to be familiar with our regulations and tax requirements, which makes excessive red tape and other bureaucratic hurdles all the more problematic for firms started by immigrants.
“The issues immigrant entrepreneurs face are the same issues that confront all entrepreneurs, and we can fix that by easing the regulations for starting and maintaining a business,” he says.