This year, The Immigrant Learning Center (ILC), Inc.’s Public Education Institute joined with MassINC and the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations for an action research project. The purpose of the action research is to develop an evidenced-based model for reaching and engaging immigrant entrepreneurs to grow their businesses in Lynn, MA. Now two-thirds of the way through, this initiative has brought together a coalition of city government, community development and financing organizations to connect with storefront entrepreneurs.
The project built upon The ILC Public Education Institute’s mission to promote immigrants as assets to America, particularly immigrant entrepreneurs. Their restaurants, grocery stores, nail salons and insurance firms are crucial to the revitalization of downtown areas in long-term economic decline. However, the Massachusetts Immigrant Entrepreneurship Conference hosted by The ILC at Babson College in November 2010 and ILC-commissioned research confirmed a disconnection between immigrant-owned storefronts and the technical assistance and training needed to support their growth.
As a result, a survey of Lynn business owners was conducted, and the coalition responded to stated needs around low-cost advertising and financing through workshops held in October and November 2012. Currently, the coalition is working on connecting the storefront owners to business opportunities in concerts and other arts events.
Supported by funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities program administered through the Massachusetts Area Planning Council, this project also benefited from the expertise of the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, which facilitated training sessions earlier this year on reaching and engaging immigrant-owned neighborhood businesses.
The project will be completed in April 2013 when a model for immigrant entrepreneur outreach and engagement will be created. This model can be used by city leadership to further development efforts by helping immigrant-owned storefronts to grow. It is hoped that such growth would hasten the downtown revitalization needed in Lynn and that the model developed through this project would invigorate similar communities across the Commonwealth and the country.