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Entrepreneurship and Innovation Update - June 10, 2014

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Latest Research 

New series of fact sheets note brain waste in the workforce, describing U.S. and state characteristics of college-educated native-born and immigrant adults. A new series of fact sheets from the Migration Policy Institute focus on the U.S. and twelve key states with the largest college-educated immigrant populations. The fact sheets assess the extent of “brain waste”: “the number of college-educated immigrant and native-born adults ages 25 and older who are either unemployed or have jobs that are significantly below their education and skill levels.” These fact sheets also describe the “underutilization of education among immigrant and native-born professionals with engineering, nursing, and teaching degrees at the undergraduate level.” 

High-skilled visa denials slowed U.S. tech sector growth, depressing wage and job growth for U.S.-born workers. A new report from the Partnership for a New American Economy finds that 2007 and 2008 H-1B visa denials in cities across the U.S. cost U.S.-born workers hundreds of thousands of jobs and nearly $3 billion in missed wages. Specifically, “the high number of H-1B visa applications that were eliminated in the 2007-2008 visa lotteries represented a major lost opportunity for U.S.-born workers and the American economy overall.” Vox.com summarized the report’s findings, stating “when companies have worse luck in getting high-skilled visas, it’s bad news for the tech sector in their city—and especially for US-born computer workers who don’t have college degrees.” John Feinblatt, Chairman of the Partnership for a New American Economy, said “This report shows that the existing cap on H-1B visas is directly undermining our technology industry’s ability to grow and create new jobs for U.S.-born workers.” 

Two new reports highlight the importance of immigrants to science and engineering in the U.S. and of upgrading the U.S. immigration system. The National Foundation for American Policy recently released two new reports. One report highlights the increasing importance of immigrants to science and engineering in America. Among the report’s various findings are that 42 percent of researchers at the top seven cancer research centers are foreign-born. Additionally, the Chicago Tribune highlighted the report’s findings, noting that immigrants have been awarded over one-third of Nobel Prizes won by Americans in Chemistry, Medicine and Physics since 2000. The second report describes problems with our current employment-based immigration system and also discusses U.S. House and Senate legislation on high skill immigration over the past year. Stuart Anderson, executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy, and author of the two reports, said that “Immigrants have historically been important to the country but those contributions, particularly in science, engineering, medical research and business startups, have increased significantly over the past 20 to 30 years. Establishing the right set of laws and policies has become even more important.” 

News Updates

June marks the first annual Immigrant Heritage Month. Immigrant Heritage Month, an initiative organized by the non-profit Welcome.us, is a time to gather and share inspirational stories of how the U.S. has been fueled by our immigrant tradition. “In the United States, with a good idea and enough hard work, anything is possible,” said Tolu Olubunmi, executive director of Welcome.us. “The entrepreneurial drive and spirit of our country is built on our diversity of origins. It is what drew the first people to the U.S. and what continues to drive American business. American success is a result of our many distinct experiences, not in spite of it.” 

Global Great Lakes Network Convening in Pittsburgh in June highlights immigrant integration efforts throughout the region. The second annual Global Great Lakes Network convening will bring together representatives of cities and organizations in the upper Midwestern region working on immigrant-related economic development initiatives. On June 12, a day-long public conference features presentations by regional and national leaders in the fields of economic development, education, high-tech, healthcare, government and social services, to share their success stories and encourage discussion of next steps. The American Immigration Council’s Ben Johnson is also speaking at the event. 

Why immigration is crucial to the revival of America’s cities. The Global Great Lakes Network convening in Pittsburgh is an opportunity for cities and organizations to highlight the contributions of immigrants and immigration to the revitalization of America’s cities. Indeed, ImmigrationImpact.com and a June 1 piece in Forbes describe the history of immigration’s role in American cities’ industrial growth, as well as the role immigrants can continue to play in cities’ economic growth and development. A growing number of cities and metro areas are recognizing immigration as a component of their broader economic development strategies. In the Rust Belt, in cities like Dayton (which TIME magazine recently profiled), Cleveland, and Buffalo, organizations are partnering up to attract newcomers. Local leaders in Pittsburgh are also pursuing strategies to attract more immigrants to their city. Additionally, New York City’s Small Business Services recently launched a new Immigrant Business Initiative. In the South, Atlanta, which officially became a “welcoming city” last fall, recently launched the Welcoming Atlanta Working Group to help integrate immigrant communities. Elsewhere, Raleigh officially became the most recent “welcoming city” in North Carolina. Amid this growing trend, the Dallas Morning News summarized many of the reasons why cities are choosing to become “immigrant-friendly.” 

Nation’s first state task force formed to address barriers facing foreign-born healthcare professionals. In May, part of Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s commitment to better integrate immigrants and refugees into the state, three Massachusetts state government agencies came together with over a dozen other Massachusetts healthcare professions stakeholders to begin discussing how to address the professional and career barriers immigrant and refugee healthcare professionals face. According to Kathleen Betts, with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services, “We know that 40% of immigrants in Massachusetts have a bachelor’s degree or higher. And we know that the need for health care professionals in Massachusetts are expected to grow by over 20% by 2020. But we also know that foreign-trained nurses, to take one example, are currently seven times more likely to work in low-paying, low-skilled professions than their U.S.-trained counterparts. We can and should address that disparity.” 

Immigrant entrepreneurs are transforming their dreams into successful businesses, providing lessons for other entrepreneurs. Fortune magazine recently described how immigrants are “America’s job creators.” And a recent piece in Entrepreneur magazine highlights six examples of immigrant entrepreneurs who started successful companies and are contributing in different ways to their local communities. Additionally, a USA Today article and a piece for KARE 11 describe the similarities of Mubarek Lolo, from Ethiopia and a grocery store owner in St. Paul, Minnesota and the founders of Yahoo, Google, Sarah Lee pastries, Kraft cheese, and Oscar Mayer wieners: they are all immigrants. A May 20 piece in Forbes spotlights several immigrant entrepreneurs from Shanghai, Taiwan, Lebanon and Canada, describing the lessons others can learn from their success. And in Providence, Rhode Island, a recent photo essay explores stories of immigrant business-owners in the area, illustrating “the growing cultural and economic contributions of the immigrant community to American society.” 

Business owners say immigration would benefit everyone. A May 27 piece for KLAS-TV in Las Vegas describes how business leaders in Nevada are pushing for the passage of comprehensive immigration reform. As the article states, “According to the Immigration Policy Center, nearly 21 percent of business owners in Nevada are foreign-born…In fact, immigrant business owners generated $1.1 billion in Nevada in 2010 alone. Now, those who support immigration reform say the state can only benefit by giving more immigrants a chance to achieve the American Dream.” 

Nonprofits and microbusiness incubators help immigrant newcomers get small businesses up and running. A May 12 article for Associated Press describes ways in which organizations are training immigrant entrepreneurs for better chances of success. As the article notes, “Interest in opening a business is especially high among immigrants and refugees…Many of them see self-employment as a shot at the ‘American dream.’” As such, many non-profit organizations are adding microbusiness development programs to their list of services. Examples include the Oregon Micro Enterprise Network and Adelante Mujeres, also in Oregon, Accion Emprendedora USA in Durham, North Carolina, and Global Detroit’s collaborative initiatives around training, technical assistance, and microloans for immigrant entrepreneurs. 

U.S. should bring in more talented tech entrepreneurs. A May 19 article for Investor’s Business Daily describes why the U.S. should streamline the process for more high-tech entrepreneurs to start businesses in the country. As the article states, “Many of our nation’s greatest tech enterprises have been built by immigrants…All told, more than 40% of our Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. Yet our country’s next great tech venture may never be realized if our politicians refuse to proactively address our outdated immigration policies.” The article also notes that while Congress dithers, other countries are already proactively attracting immigrant entrepreneurs. 

An increase of skilled foreign workers boosts wages of native-born college-educated workers in cities. A May 22 article in the Wall Street Journal reviews a new report showing immigration benefits for U.S.-born, college-educated employees. Specifically, the study examined wage data and immigration in 219 metropolitan areas from 1990 to 2010. As the article notes, “Researchers found that cities seeing the biggest influx of foreign-born workers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics—the so-called STEM professions—saw wages climb fastest for the native-born, college-educated population.” 

Foreign brain drain a call for immigration reform. A May 7 article in U.S. News and World Report describes why retaining international students could help the economy and education system. According to the article, a recent report by Immigration and Customs Enforcement suggests that “America is experiencing an unnecessary ‘brain drain’ as a result of other countries greater willingness to embrace foreign students following graduation.” According to Heather Stewart, counsel and director of immigration policy at the Association of International Educators (NAFSA), “it’s often difficult for international students to stay in the United States after graduation because the country’s immigration system runs counter to wanting to attract and retain these students.” When foreign graduates of U.S. universities leave, they take their potential contributions to the workforce and their entrepreneurial aspirations with them, presenting a missed opportunity for the country.