Immigrant workers are far more entrepreneurial than many people realize. Immigrants have founded 18 percent of all Fortune 500 companies, and make up 18 percent of overall U.S. business ownership. Through a variety of businesses, immigrants are creating more jobs for American workers.
Many immigrants own Main Street businesses, such as restaurants, grocery stores and clothing stores. While many immigrants find themselves without resources to start these endeavors, some cities with large immigrant populations are developing programs to help these would-be business owners access the tools they need.
Historically, many immigrants have come to Chicago. Currently, the city’s Little Village neighborhood is home to the largest Mexican community in the Midwest, with a thriving commercial corridor along 26th Street. In fact, after downtown Chicago’s Magnificent Mile business, the 26th Street commercial corridor is the city’s second largest contributor to business tax revenue .
To foster similar development (and tax revenue), representatives from communities and sectors across the city developed the Chicago New Americans Plan to capitalize on immigrants’ potential as business owners. Through the plan, new programs help provide immigrants with resources to start their own businesses. For example, the Restaurant Startup Guide and program simplifies the business application process and specifies zoning and permit particulars, helping expedite restaurant launches.
While Chicago has served as a well-known immigrant hub for generations, other cities are now welcoming new immigrants. Dayton, Ohio created the “Welcome Dayton” plan to integrate these new residents into the community. Along with this, the Ohio Small Business Development Center, as part of the federal Small Business Administration, helps immigrants overcome the barriers to starting a business and bridge the gaps between community groups to help potential entrepreneurs learn about valuable resources.
Similarly, Nashville, Tennessee is also steadily developing resources to extend its welcome mat to immigrants. Groups like the Tennessee Immigrant Refugee Rights Coalition and Conexión Américas are working to educate immigrants on business ownership. Since its inception in 2009, the Mayor’s New Americans Advisory Council has transformed from bridging the city’s immigrant communities and the Metro Government to become the Nashville Mayor’s Office of New Americans. The office helps immigrants access resources for economic and educational opportunities.
While these cities’ welcoming actions are laudable, they’re also driving important conversations about what cities and immigrants want and need. Cities seeking the benefits of immigrant entrepreneurship are finding great value in offering resources to help immigrants launch new businesses. Beyond the city’s revenue streams, entire communities benefit from a strong small business climate
In turn, pairing comprehensive immigration reform with these expanded entrepreneurship programs will benefit everyone: immigrants, cash-strapped cities and communities.