When You Think “Immigrant,” Think “Small Business Owner”

Chuck Sheketoff

In the nation as a whole, who is more likely to start a small business — an immigrant or someone born in the U.S.?

“An immigrant” is the right answer, according to a new report published by the New York-based Fiscal Policy Institute (PDF).

Specifically, nationally immigrants were 10 percent more likely to own a business in 2010 than people born in the U.S. That wasn’t case here in Oregon, where immigrants were less likely than those born in the U.S. to own a business in 2010.

Nevertheless, the Fiscal Policy Institute’s report confirms that Oregon and the nation benefit greatly from the entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants. Among those who owned a small business in Oregon in 2010, 9.2 percent of them — about one out of eleven — had been born abroad. For the Portland metro area, that share was 13 percent, or one out of eight.

In all, about 6,800 small business owners in Oregon in 2010 were immigrants, according to the study.

The study notes that small businesses account for nearly one-third of private sector employment in the U.S., and many of those jobs can be found in immigrant owned-businesses.

So next time that you think “immigrant,” think also “small business owner.”

Oregon Center for Public PolicyChuck Sheketoff is the executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. You can sign up to receive email notification of OCPP materials at www.ocpp.org.

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    Another interesting fact: 41% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children (including IBM, GE, Boeing, Home Depot, Budweiser, AT&T). So, some of those small businesses become very large ones...

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    Yup. Fascinating story by NPR a couple of weeks ago about Indian immigrants and the motel business. Here's how it opened:

    Here are three remarkable facts about motels in the U.S. that you probably don't already know:

    • At least 1 out of 2 motels are owned by Indian-Americans.

    • Out of those Indian-owned motels, 70 percent are owned by Gujaratis, people with roots in the western Indian state of Gujarat.

    • Of those Gujaratis, three-fourths share the last name Patel. There's even a name for these overnight establishments: "Patel Motels."

    In other words, if you do the math - a full 26% of all motels in the United States are owned by someone named "Patel".

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      If a similar study were done of the adult foster home business in the Portland Metro area, you would find a huge percentage, perhaps a majority of adult care homes, are run by Romanian couples.

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    Each wave of immigration introduces fresh vitality to our country, economically, culturally, and otherwise.

    I grew up literally in an immigrant small business, an Italian restaurant owned and run by my immigrant grandparents. It was a very rich environment, close quarters but full and deep in human relationships and culture. Family members all work and contribute to the business and pull together to help each other get ahead. Everything that is good in my life I owe primarily to that experience.

    Eary in lifeI learned all about the world of work and finance, of loyalty and faith and hope for the future. I also learned all their stories about the "old country" and attended university there for a couple of years. I still speak the language and am planning in my retirement to take my wife soon on a trip to Italy. (I know, I know, with a name like Ryan. Well, sometimes when Irish and Italian parents get together it doesn't work out so well. )

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