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Entrepreneurship and Innovation Update - April 14, 2014

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Study of U.S. metros with most high-tech immigrant entrepreneurs provides lessons for other regions. A recent post on Immigration Impact highlights a new report from the Kauffman Foundation. The report examines geographic factors that intersect with metro concentration of high-skill immigrant entrepreneurs. According to the report, “an open and culturally diverse environment helps promote high-tech entrepreneurship among both immigrants and the U.S.-born.” As the study notes, “immigrant-owned businesses are more likely to locate in ethnically diverse metro areas that have high foreign-born populations. That’s important for metro areas hoping to attract and retain this fast-growing pool of high-impact founders.” Dane Stangler, vice president of Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation, stated, “Because immigrants are far more likely to start businesses—particularly high-tech companies—than the native-born, their importance in the U.S. economy is increasing.”

Hispanic entrepreneurs are beating expectations and bolstering the U.S. economy. A new report from the Partnership for a New American Economy and the Latino Donor Collaborative highlights data showing that the number of Hispanic entrepreneurs in America has grown exponentially over the past two decades, helping to power the economy during the recent recession. Additionally, the study found that there are far more Hispanic entrepreneurs today than expected, and Hispanic immigrants now have higher entrepreneurship rates than the U.S. population overall.

High-skilled foreign-born workers contribute to places throughout the country and to America’s innovation economy. A new report from the American Immigration Council (AIC) provides an overview of recent research about the H-1B visa program and its impact on wages, jobs, and the economy. As the report states, “every year, U.S. employers seeking highly skilled foreign professionals have rolled the dice on April 1 and submitted their applications for the limited pool of H-1B visas available each fiscal year. With only 65,000 visas available for new hires—and 20,000 additional visas for foreign professionals who graduate with a Master’s or Doctorate from a U.S. university—in recent years demand has far outstripped the supply and the cap has been quickly reached. In 2013, the H-1B visa cap was reached within a few days. Understanding the H-1B process is important to understanding the vital economic role that higher-skilled immigration plays in growing our economy and creating new opportunities for native and foreign-born workers alike.” An April 7 post on Immigration Impact noted that the H-1B cap for Fiscal Year 2015 was reached within the first week of the filing period.

Immigration is good for science research in the United States. A March 4 post on Immigration Impact highlights the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) new report, Science and Engineering Indicators 2014. The report found that a large proportion of workers employed in science and engineering fields in the U.S. are foreign born. Specifically, the report notes that the United States is the world’s preeminent producer of scientific research thanks in part to immigrants. Writing for Pacific Standard, Michael White, a systems biologist at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, summarized the report’s findings. As he put it, the U.S. “funds the most research in academia and business, it publishes more science than any other nation, and its scientific papers are disproportionality among the world’s best.” And immigrants play a crucial role in those activities.

Immigrant business owners contribute to communities across America. As part of our project on immigrant entrepreneurs, innovation, and local welcoming initiatives, the American Immigration Council (AIC) recently completed all 50 state fact sheets in this series, plus the District of Columbia and a report for the United States as a whole. These new fact sheets highlight the importance of entrepreneurship and innovation to local economies, and ways in which places encourage an inclusive environment through local welcoming and integration initiatives. Additional state information is available from AIC’s state resource pages for all fifty states.

News Updates

Why more skilled immigration would be good for American workers, too. A March 19 article in the Washington Post highlights how skilled immigration is a plus for the economy, workers, and job creation in the U.S. The article notes that, compared with other OECD countries, U.S. immigration policy allows in relatively few skilled foreign-born innovators. As the article states, “many of the STEM students educated at U.S. universities who can’t get visas to stay and work here wind up in some of those other countries.” As the article notes, bringing in more high-skilled foreign-born workers wouldn’t displace native-born workers: there is a “gap between businesses looking to fill high-skilled jobs and an education and training system that isn’t producing the right workers to take them.”

Members talk startups and immigration at SXSW Interactive. At the recent South by Southwest (SXSW) event in Austin, Texas, Members of Congress appeared on a panel to discuss entrepreneurship and immigration. On a panel with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), a proponent of the SKILLS Act, Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA) remarked that “policy doesn’t move as quickly as innovation happens. Lawmakers need to be better stewards of policy and update it, not just keep adding on top of old laws.” At an earlier panel, Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), both co-sponsors of the Startup Act 3.0 discussed how education, immigration, and taxes affect entrepreneurship. Startup Act 3.0 would grant green cards to 50,000 recipients of advanced STEM degrees and 75,000 foreign entrepreneurs. As Warner stated, “It’s not great economic strategy to train the world’s brightest people and then kick them out.”

#IAmImmigration campaign launches #iFarmImmigration and #iBuildImmigration to amplify voices across the country in support of immigration reform. In February and March, the Partnership for a New American Economy and the #iAmImmigration campaign focused on the perspectives of farmers and farmworkers on immigration reform through the #iFarmImmigration campaign. In March, #iAmImmigration began focusing on immigrant entrepreneurs and innovators through the #iBuildImmigration campaign. And at SXSW in Austin, the partnership held an #iCodeImmigration event to spotlight immigration and innovation in the tech community. 

Jobs loss calculator highlights missed U.S. job creation due to H-1B visa limits. On March 19, Compete America launched a “jobs loss calculator.” According to their press release, the jobs loss calculator is a “real-time on-line tally of the number of high-skilled immigrants who can’t get U.S. work visas, as well as the additional jobs that these scientists and engineers would have created for the American economy.” “The Jobs Loss Calculator takes an abstract debate and brings it to life with real numbers,” Scott Corley, executive director of Compete America, said.

Underemployed skilled immigrants could be a plug for Maine’s “brain drain”. A March 18 article in the Maine Forecaster describes how overcoming licensing barriers for skilled immigrants already residing in Maine could help put a plug in Maine’s brain drain. The New Mainers Resource Center is “a two-year pilot project to help skilled, foreign-trained professionals pursue their former careers” in Maine. Sally Sutton, the Center’s program coordinator, estimates that “there are hundreds of immigrants in the greater Portland area who cannot work” due to licensing barriers. “They are doctors, nurses, pharmacists, engineers, teachers and computer scientists who are unemployed or underemployed…the newly arrived Mainers provide an opportunity to stem the tide,” the article states. And as Sutton notes, “As a state, we need these people. We are old, we’re aging out of the workforce.”

Skilled immigrants pump new jobs into labor market as entrepreneurs. A recent article in Latin Post highlights a January Immigration Policy Center report about places that are welcoming immigrant entrepreneurs as part of their economic development strategies. As the article describes, “metro areas, particularly in the Midwest, that feel the effects of an aging population and low employment growth have begun to beckon immigrants, and they started to integrate initiatives to draw immigrants to their areas as an upward economic strategy. Entrepreneurship, an essential driver of local economies, is, by and large, led by immigrants in many areas. Skilled immigrants can be credited for creating public and private organizations, offering goods and services, and revamping neighborhoods and streetscapes.”

Forward-thinking Midwestern cities welcome immigrants. A recent article from Immpreneur.com highlights a January report by the Immigration Policy Center, Revitalization in the Heartland of America, which describes recent immigrant integration efforts in Detroit, St. Louis, and Iowa. The article quotes the report: “Those cities which welcome the initiative and drive of immigrants will not only experience economic and social dividends, but will be poised to prosper even more under a new era of immigration reform.” Specifically, the article states that places like Detroit and St. Louis, among other cities, “are already taking this message seriously, and are not waiting for a gridlocked Congress to get around to meaningful immigrant reform.” Such places are investing in programs to attract, welcome, and retain entrepreneurial immigrants to their communities. As the article notes, in the coming months, Immpreneur.com will begin a new editorial initiative to “examine cities around the country that are providing resources and programs to help immigrant entrepreneurs succeed, and determining which cities are welcoming.”

Six reasons why immigrants should head to St. Louis. Another recent article from Immpreneur.com describes recent efforts by the St. Louis Mosaic Project to help St. Louis become “the fastest growing metropolitan area for immigration by 2020.” The results of an economic study about the St. Louis region concluded that “there is one clear and specific way to simultaneously redress the region’s population stagnation, output slump, tepid employment growth, housing weakness and deficit in entrepreneurship: immigration.” That conclusion became the impetus for the creation of the St. Louis Mosaic Project. And as the Immpreneur.com article highlights, there are at least six reasons from a business perspective why immigrants and potential immigrant entrepreneurs should consider locating in St. Louis.

Detroit Homestead Act: Michigan Governor wants to repopulate the city with immigrants. A March 12 article in the Wall Street Journal describes Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s proposal to help stimulate Detroit’s floundering economy by repopulating the city with willing immigrants. As the article notes, “Population decline has been both a leading cause and effect of Motown’s collapse. The city has lost more than half of the 1.5 million residents it had in 1970…Tax revenues have plunged, and blight has spread.” Governor Snyder “has proposed assigning 50,000 EB-2 visas over five years to high-skilled immigrants who volunteer to work and live in Detroit.” As the article concludes, “Immigrants have helped to revive major cities like New York City, Chicago and Boston, and they could do the same for Detroit.”

The annual H-1B visa race began April 1 for fiscal year 2015 and the cap was reached within the first week. A March 25 news item from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reminds those interested that the organization will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year 2015 cap on April 1, 2014. As USCIS notes, “The congressionally mandated cap on H-1B visas for FY 2015 is 65,000. The first 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of individuals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher are exempt from the 65,000 cap. USCIS anticipates receiving more than enough petitions to reach both caps by April 7. The agency is prepared to use a random selection process to meet the numerical limit. Non-duplicate petitions that are not selected will be rejected and returned with the filing fees.” On April 7, USCIS announced that they had received a sufficient number of applications to meet the visa cap for fiscal year 2015, and a post on Immigration Impact the same day noted that USCIS would implement a computer-generated random lottery process to select from the pool of applications.