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Immigrants Are Driving Main Street Business Growth

Written by Ken Gaebler
Published: 1/15/2015

New report shows the important role immigrant entrepreneurs play in launching and growing businesses that are critical to the health and vitality of local neighborhoods.

Historically, immigrants have played a role in the U.S. small business economy. But a recent report by the Americas Society/Council of the Americas sheds new light on the rising influence of immigrant entrepreneurs in Main Street businesses--i.e., businesses that shape the fabric of the nation's local communities.

Immigrant Impact on Economy

The Role of Immigrants in Main Street Businesses

The report, titled Bringing Vitality to Main Street: How Immigrant Small Businesses Help Local Economies Grow, showed that from 2001-2013, immigrant entrepreneurs (documented and undocumented) drove all of the nation's net growth in Main Street businesses (e.g., groceries, restaurants, clothing stores, etc.).

Similarly, immigrants accounted for the net growth of Main Street businesses in 31 of the nation's 50 largest metro areas.

Additional findings from the report included:

  • Immigrant entrepreneurs represent 28% of Main Street business owners--significantly higher than the share of immigrants in the labor force (16%) and the overall share of immigrant business owners (18%).
  • Main Street immigrant business owners earned a combined $13 billion in 2013.
  • Immigrants comprise a large percentage of Main Street business owners in major metros: Los Angeles (64%), San Jose (61%), Washington D.C. (56%), Miami (54%).
  • By business category, immigrants own 53% of all grocery stores, 45% of nail salons, 38% of restaurants, 32% of jewelry stores and 32% of clothing stores.

The efforts of immigrant and ethnic entrepreneurs in launching and growing Main Street businesses is important because it is helping to revitalize depressed communities, reversing population decline and increasing the economic base in hard-hit neighborhoods.

In addition to Main Street businesses, immigrants are also occupying a larger place in the greater small business economy. From 2001 to 2013, immigrants were responsible for 48 percent of the overall growth of business ownership in the U.S.

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