ARBOR WEALTH: Huddled masses: The power of immigrant entrepreneurs

Published: Sunday, December 9, 2012 at 08:51 AM.

“With immigrant business ownership come jobs and income,” says Koba. 

Naveen Jain, a native Indian who came to the U.S. in 1983 and started several companies, including Infospace, agrees wholeheartedly. “The popular belief is that immigrants, legal or otherwise, take away American jobs. They really don’t,” Jain argues.  “They create jobs and make the economy bigger.”

“An estimated 4.7 million U.S. workers are employed by immigrant-owned firms gathering some $776 billion in revenues, according to the most recent figures in the FPI report,” says Koba. He lists “Mexico, India, South Korea, Cuba, China, Vietnam, Canada and Iran” in that order, as the countries supplying the largest number of U.S. immigrant owned businesses.

Most immigrant-owned businesses are in the professional and business sector, followed by retail and construction, educational and social services and leisure and hospitality. Koba mentions restaurants, real estate firms, grocery stores, and physician’s offices as the most common type of enterprises.  Examples of each genre are integral to our local business culture, from the Destin Commons to the far reaches of 30A.

According to Koba’s research, the U.S. allows some 140,000 immigrants into the U.S. each year for permanent residence. But a Duke University study says there may be as many as a million immigrants “waiting for visas that would allow them to stay” and become “business owners and workers.”

Immigrants certainly do compete for American jobs. And illegal immigration is problematic in certain regions of the U.S.  What we are witnessing, though, with America’s relatively welcoming immigration policy, is the creation of more jobs through entrepreneurial enterprises than are lost through traditional competition. The numbers indicate that more and not less legal immigration may be a factor in building economic wealth in the future.

Equally as important is the fact that immigrants who become citizens and business owners, through contributions to Medicare and Social Security, help fund these programs for U.S. retirees. 

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