Entrepreneurship and Innovation Newsletter – July 2014

Immigrants offset population decline and aging workforce in Midwest metropolitan areas. A June 25 piece forImmigration Impact highlights a new report from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs exploring immigration’s impact on changing populations in the Midwest. “The metropolitan areas of Midwestern states are experiencing slow rates of growth and even declining populations,” the report said. “The arrival of immigrants over the past decade has helped to reverse these trends.” Furthermore, “immigrants play a key role in the Midwest economy because the Midwest’s Baby Boomers are moving into retirement and the native-born population as a whole is aging.”

Immigrants contribute to the essential economy.  Americas Society-Council of the Americas recently released a newfact sheet, the tenth in their series on immigrants and the economy, that highlights ways in which immigrants contribute to the essential economy—which encompasses food services and hospitality, construction, agriculture, elder care, and manufacturing industries. According to the report, “immigrants’ participation in these sectors creates new jobs for native-born workers, contributes to the growth of construction and agriculture, and provides essential care to the United States’ aging population.”

Immigration boosts the U.S. economy through improved growth, increased U.S. employment, reduced deficit, and more new businesses. A new report from the Business Roundtable, Contributing to American growth: The economic case for immigration reform, explores several ways in which immigration boosts the U.S. economy. The paper also examines how immigration reform would further benefit the economy. Additionally, the Bipartisan Policy Center recently released a report—Immigration and Wages: Decoding the Economics—looking at economists’ findings about immigration’s impact on wages and the economy. Their report notes that, although the impact of immigration on wages is small, immigration’s impact on the broader economy is much larger.

Job openings for STEM positions take more than twice as long to fill than vacancies in other fields. A new report from the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, Still searching: Job Vacancies and STEM Skills,shows that the median duration of advertising for a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) job vacancy is over twice as long as for a non-STEM vacancy. The report’s author, Jonathan Rothwell, notes that “STEM skills are in high demand relative to supply, and the problem is especially acute in certain metropolitan areas, where the average vacancy for STEM workers takes months to fill.”

U.S. counties that attracted large numbers of migrants more than a century ago remain more dynamic today than counties that did not. A new study published in the May 2014 issue of the Annals of the Association of American Geographers finds that U.S. counties that attracted more immigrants over a hundred years ago are more economically robust and dynamic today. Migrants’ historical legacy on the economic development of counties endures. The authors conclude with a comment on policy implications, noting that migration policies leaders make today are “crucial for the economic health of the United States.”

News Updates

Immigrant integration leaders from across the U.S. convene at White House. A July 17 post on Immigration Impacthighlights the National Convening on Immigrant and Refugee Integration, coordinated by Welcoming America and the National Partnership for New Americans, and held at the White House, at which nearly 200 leaders from communities across the U.S. gathered on July 16. Attendees discussed successful initiatives, as well as challenges and opportunities for immigrant integration. The day after the White House convening, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted discussions with community leaders and practitioners about spurring local economic growth by welcoming immigrants.

Immigrants are helping to build a more resilient Baltimore. A July 3 article from Next City, and an accompanyingshort film, notes that Baltimore, Maryland, is an example of a city that has experienced severe population and economic decline over the last several decades. As one component of the city’s plans to regrow its population and reignite its economy, Baltimore is attracting new immigrant families to the city and encouraging immigrant entrepreneurship. As the article and film observe, “the resourcefulness of this enterprising group, and the re-populating feedback loop they have the power to create, is one of the main reasons the city wanted to attract immigrants in the first place. Now, for the first time in half a century, Baltimore’s population is rising once again.”

Latino-owned businesses help reinvigorate aging retail corridors. A July 2 article in the Chesterfield Observerdescribes how immigrant Latino-owned small businesses have helped bolster aging retail corridors in Chesterfield County, south of Richmond, Virginia. As the article notes, “Latino business owners are often willing to move into the older spaces, which have far cheaper rents than the newer retail shopping strips…If it weren’t for immigrant-run businesses taking up residence in old, previously abandoned restaurants and retail stores, they’d likely remain empty.”

Charlotte’s immigrant population continues to grow. A July 8 piece in the Charlotte Observer notes that the Hispanic population, many of whom are foreign-born, in Mecklenburg County (Where Charlotte, North Carolina is located) grew much faster than the white and black population from 2010 to 2013. Owen Furuseth, a geography professor and associate provost at UNC Charlotte, stated such data affirm “the fact that we now have a Hispanic immigrant community that has settled in Charlotte.” In 2013, Charlotte’s City Council created an Immigrant Integration Task Force to recommend more immigrant-friendly policies that encourage people to move to Charlotte, start businesses and be more involved in community life. Indeed, Furuseth noted “the people who are arriving now have families. They’re business people, college-educated…It’s a maturing of the immigration stream.”

New York City Economic Development Commission (NYCEDC) announces finalists of third annual Competition THRIVE to support immigrant entrepreneurs. The five finalists in this year’s Competition THRIVE include programs “designed to solve challenges facing immigrant entrepreneurs such as access to capital, technological assistance, and business skills training.” Nisha Agarwal, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, said“immigrant entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of the city. Immigrants are twice as likely as native-born New Yorkers to start a business, but they face unique challenges. This competition supports immigrant entrepreneurs and rewards their ingenuity and pluck.”

Global Great Lakes Network Convening brings together Midwest leaders around immigration. A June 17 piece forImmigration Impact highlighted the second Global Great Lakes Network Convening, which brought together in Pittsburgh in June representatives of cities and organizations across the Midwest and Great Lakes regions working on immigrant-related economic development initiatives. The American Immigration Council’s Ben Johnson led a discussion with Sunil Wadhwani, the CEO and Founder of iGate Corp, during the conference’s welcoming session. Participants at the convening frequently spoke about strengthening the existing workforce while also attracting new talent to cities. “In order to be a growing place, an economically growing place, you have to have people—talent—that’s contributing as workers, as entrepreneurs, as job-creators, as educators, as students,” said Melanie Harrington, president and CEO of Vibrant Pittsburgh. “You need to have individuals making those contributions, anchoring themselves in your community, doing great things.”

Bill introduced creating Pennsylvania Office of New Americans to serve immigrant and refugee community. In mid-June, coinciding with the Global Great Lakes Network convening in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania State Senator Jim Ferlo introduced a bill that would create a state Office of New Americans in Pennsylvania. The office would act as a liaison between the state and Pennsylvania’s immigrant community. Ferlo noted that “immigrants provide an important source of energy, innovation, and entrepreneurial activity and I believe that Pennsylvania can do more to be competitive in attracting and keeping this pool of talent.”

Series examines immigrants and their impact in Pittsburgh. Also coinciding with the Global Great Lakes Network convening, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has been examining Pittsburgh’s recent immigrants and their impact on the region through a series of articles in 2014. Stories have explored how Pittsburgh’s economy has gained from high-skilled immigrants and how earlier immigrants have reshaped and blended into the region, while other articles focus on the particular stories of individual immigrants.

Cambio de Colores conference highlights immigrant integration in the Midwest. As Mid-Missouri Public Radiodescribes in a June 26 piece, the Cambio Center at the University of Missouri recently hosted the thirteenth annualCambio de Colores conference—Latinos in the Heartland: Growing Together in New Destination Areas. The interdisciplinary conference of researchers, practitioners, educators, business professionals, and community members focused on the “integration of immigrants in Midwest communities and the issues they face relating to healthcare, education, economic development, civil rights and integration.”

Upwardly Global opens office in Detroit to help train skilled legal immigrants and refugees in Michigan. A June 23 piece for CBS Detroit noted that Upwardly Global, which already has offices in the San Francisco area, New York and Chicago, recently launched a new office in Detroit. Upwardly Global seeks to eliminate employment barriers for skilled immigrants and refugees and integrate this population into the professional U.S. workforce. With the opening of its Detroit office, Upwardly Global joins Global Detroit, the Michigan Office of New Americans, and other initiatives working on integrating immigrants and refugees in Michigan. Steve Tobocman, Director of Global Detroit, said “the Detroit office will provide work authorized skilled immigrants and refugees with face-to-face customized training to help them integrate into Michigan’s workforce.”

High-skilled immigrants create jobs for Americans. In a June 18 piece for Fox News Latino, economist Giovanni Peri described his research findings that show high-skilled immigrants help create jobs in the U.S. Specifically, Peristated that “by looking at computer-sector employment and wages in metropolitan areas with higher or lower denials of H1Bs, we found that when we deny these individuals the ability to come and work in the U.S., the whole sector in the metro area suffers. Denying high-skilled immigrants the ability to come results in slower growth for the American tech industry and therefore fewer jobs and lower wages for all U.S.-born individuals working in computer-related fields.”

An immigrant from Mexico makes a big impact in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley through nanofiber technology. A June 17 piece from the Partnership for a New American Economy highlights Karen Lozano, the first Mexican national to earn an engineering PhD from Rice University. Lozano invented a spinning technology while working at the University of Texas-Pan American that could manufacture nanofibers 900 times faster than technologies currently on the market. The technology was eventually incorporated into FibeRio Technology Corporation, a firm that’s helping to revitalize the Rio Grande Valley and make it attractive to high-tech textile firms.

U.S. immigration visa system presents obstacles for immigrant entrepreneurs and innovators. The Partnership for a New American Economy recently highlighted several immigrant entrepreneurs and innovators contributing to different places in the U.S. However, as their stories show, the immigration visa system presents barriers to them, as well as to the continuity of their companies and the jobs they create. In one example, Eduardo Soffici, an immigrant entrepreneur from Argentina, faces an uncertain future of visa renewal, which would impact him, his family, and the successful hotel management company he built in Florida. In another example, Thomas Ketchell, an immigrant from Belgium, brought innovation to U.S. classrooms through his HSTRY company. Yet, he has been unable to obtain a visa to continue nurturing his company in the U.S. more permanently. Philippe Ma, a Hong Kong native who grew up in France, started a successful hair salon in Orlando, Florida. However, visa uncertainties have kept him from expanding his business and leave him worrying about his family’s future. Pedro Sorrentino, a tech entrepreneur from Brazil, was hired by SendGrid.com after graduating from Colorado University. Although visa difficulties forced him to return to Brazil, he eventually was able to return to the U.S. after much hard work and luck.