“Immigrants have the disposition and courage to take risks,” said Marcia Drew Hohn, EdD, director of The ILC Public Education Institute, at the State House on Thursday, November 15, 2012. “Their coming here is in itself an entrepreneurial act. It should come as no surprise that they represent an outsized portion of entrepreneurs in Massachusetts relative to their size of population.”
On the heels of last month’s Immigrant Entrepreneurship Month 2012, Dr. Hohn led a talk on “Massachusetts Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Creating Jobs and Strengthening the Economy.” (Download a fact sheet here.) With statistics from ILC-commissioned research and the stories of eight business owners, the discussion highlighted the contributions of immigrant entrepreneurs who help power the Commonwealth’s economy through job creation and business growth. The talk was attended by representatives from legislative offices, economic development organizations and immigrant integration groups.
Dr. Hohn presented data showing 61 percent of new businesses in the Commonwealth were founded by immigrants in 2008 although immigrants represented only 14 percent of the population.
Immigrant-owned storefronts like Pailin City, which anchors the Cambodiatown section of Lowell, were revitalizing Massachusetts neighborhoods in economic decline across the Commonwealth, Dr. Hohn said. Pailin City is owned by Malee Thai, who received a citation from Gov. Deval Patrick for Immigrant Entrepreneurship Month 2012.
Another business, Silverio Insurance Agency, which primarily serves the Latino population in Lawrence, grew more than 30 percent from 2009 to 2012 to $2.5 million in revenue. This was one example, Dr. Hohn said, of the continued growth of immigrant-owned businesses in niche markets often neglected by other businesses. High growth can also be seen in immigrant-owned businesses in hospitality, transportation and food manufacturing.
And in the high-tech world, Dr. Hohn said immigrants were powering Massachusetts’ innovation economy. More than one-quarter of biotech companies were founded or co-founded by immigrants. These companies employed more than 4,000 workers and generated $7.6 billion in revenue in 2006 alone.
While the data underscored the significant contributions of immigrant-owned businesses, Dr. Hohn noted that they tend to be disconnected from community and economic development organizations, which can hamper further growth.
See videos of Massachusetts immigrant business owners in our Immigrant Entrepreneur Interview Series.