Momar Visaya, Asian Journal (Los Angeles), March 11, 2011
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced late last week three new steps to make it easier for immigrant-owned businesses to start and grow in New York City: a business plan competition for innovative strategies to provide assistance to immigrant entrepreneurs; new, free NYC Business Solution courses in Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and Russian; and a business expo to showcase locally-based immigrant food manufacturing businesses and link them to consumers nationwide.
The initiatives are a result of a yearlong series of roundtables with community groups and are part of the City’s agenda to support immigrant communities and empower them to grow and create jobs.
“Immigrant entrepreneurs and the businesses they launch have long been drivers of innovation and enterprise in New York City and across America,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “We need the Federal government to fix our immigration system, but New York City can’t afford to wait. Today we are taking another step to help our economy by promoting immigrants enterprise and entrepreneurship across our five boroughs.”
The conference on immigration reform had special reference to New York City and focused on the impact of immigration on the nation, and in particular the city of New York, likely future immigration trends and proposals for immigration reform, including congressional bills, concept papers and major independent task forces.
In his opening remarks, Joseph Chamie, director of research at the Center for Migration Studies emphasized on the shift in the ethnic composition of America’s population as a result of changing immigration patterns.
“In 1900, German immigrants accounted for 26 percent of the foreign-born, followed by immigrants from Ireland. By 1970, Mexico had moved up among the top five immigrant sending countries, accounting for 8 percent of the foreign born; and by 1980, Mexico was in first place with 16 percent of the foreign born population,” Chamie explained. “In addition, according to the 2000 census, the top five countries are no longer of European origin; they are now Mexico, China, Philippines, India and Vietnam.”
This is now the immigrant community that Bloomberg hopes to help.
New York City’s immigrant population has more than doubled since 1970–from roughly 1.4 million to 3 million–and immigrants now represent nearly 40 percent of the City’s population and 43 percent of the City’s labor force.
“The strength, vitality and allure of this city has been because of two things: immigrants and entrepreneurship,” said City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “It is only right that we continue to support those coming to New York City to pursue their dream of opening up their business by providing them with the proper information and tools to help their business thrive in one of the best cities in the world. These initiatives will pave the way for all immigrants who are looking to have their business succeed in their communities.
Immigrants are a significant and important piece of the City’s entrepreneurial economy: Immigrants make up 49 percent of all self-employed workers in the City compared to 25 percent in New York State and only 12 percent in the US Despite their large numbers, immigrant businesses face serious challenges.
The immigrant entrepreneur support competition, a joint-effort of the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, will challenge entrants to propose innovative, scalable ideas to assist immigrant entrepreneurs. Participants will be invited to submit business plans for ventures that would address concerns of immigrant entrepreneurs like access to credit, financial management, language barriers, or access to business networks.
Five plans will be selected and each awarded seed funding of up to $25,000 to pilot their program. After the pilot period, the program recognized as the most scalable and sustainable by a panel of judges will be selected as the winner and receive funding of up to $100,000 to further scale their program. The judging panel will be comprised of members of academia, City agencies, nonprofits, and business leaders.