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Maryland: Immigrant Entrepreneurs, Innovation, and Welcoming Initiatives in the Old Line State

In Maryland, there is no doubt that immigrant entrepreneurs and innovators play an important role. Immigrant entrepreneurs bring in additional revenue, create jobs, and contribute significantly to the state’s economy. Highly skilled immigrants are vital to the state’s innovation industries, and to the metropolitan areas within the state, helping to boost local economies. Furthermore, local government, business, and non-profit leaders recognize the importance of immigrants in their communities and support immigration through local “welcoming” and integration initiatives.

Immigrant entrepreneurs contribute to Maryland’s economy.

  • From 2006 to 2010, there were 50,028 new immigrant business owners in Maryland, and in 2010, 21.2 percent of all business owners in Maryland were foreign-born.
  • In 2010, new immigrant business owners had a total net business income of $2.8 billion, which is 16.3 percent of all net business income in the state.
  • Maryland is home to many successful companies with at least one founder who was an immigrant. Research by the Kauffman Foundation shows that immigrants started around 25 percent of all engineering and technology companies in Maryland from 2006 to 2012.
    • Furthermore, their research finds that between 2006 and 2012, 16 percent of engineering and technology companies in Maryland were Chinese-founded, second only to California.
  • In 2010, the foreign-born share of business owners was 21 percent in the Baltimore metropolitan area.[vii] In the case of Baltimore, the immigrant business ownership rate was higher than the metro area’s foreign-born share of total population.

Highly skilled immigrants are vital to Maryland’s innovation industries, which in turn helps lead American innovation and creates jobs.

  • Immigrants contribute to Maryland’s economic growth and competitiveness by earning degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields from the state’s research universities. In 2009, almost 26.6 percent of STEM graduates from the state’s research-intensive universities were foreign-born, and almost 54.3 percent of graduates earning PhDs in engineering in Maryland were not born in the U.S.
  • In 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor certified 7,533 H-1B labor certification applications in Maryland, with an average annual wage of $69,389, which is within range of Maryland’s median household income of $72,999, but higher than its per capita income of $36,056.
  • An expansion of the high-skilled visa program would create an estimated 8,300 new jobs in Maryland by 2020. By 2045, this expansion would add around $3.4 billion to Gross State Product and increase personal income by more than $3.3 billion. The following are examples of metropolitan area demand for high-skilled foreign-born workers.
    • The Baltimore-Towson metropolitan area had 3,560 H-1B high-skilled visa requests in 2010-2011, with 61.4 percent of H-1B visa-holders working in STEM occupations. Major employers with a need for H-1B high-skilled workers include Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore City Public School System, University of Maryland-Baltimore, HH Medstar Health Inc., and Merkle Inc.
    • The Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metropolitan area, of which several Maryland counties and population centers are a part, had 14,569 H-1B visa requests in 2010-2011, with 64.4 percent of visa-holders working in STEM occupations. Major employers include several universities in the area.

While the numbers are compelling, they don’t tell the whole story.

  • Immigrant entrepreneurs not only contribute to large innovative companies, but to small business formation in local communities. In cities across Maryland, immigrant family-owned small businesses contribute to the vitality of their local communities. Although initially aimed at other immigrant customers, many businesses quickly see an expansion of their clientele to include a diverse array of immigrant and native-born customers alike.
    • For example, Sharad and Sonal Doshi, originally from India, employ around 100 people in various businesses, including a Subway restaurant on South Market Street in downtown Frederick.
  • Maryland also attracts immigrant tech entrepreneurs, as the following examples illustrate.
    • In Baltimore, Johan Sebastian Garcia, from Bogota, Colombia, started a digital marketing company, Eldorado Tech, geared toward developing software for restaurants to reward their clients.
    • In Rockville, Yan A. Su, from China, started GenProMarkers that provides biotechnology services to the Defense Department, the National Institutes of Health and other research centers. Specifically, his company uses biomarkers to measure disease progression to understand what treatments are most effective.
    • In Silver Spring, Joan Wang, also from China, launched iDesign Engineering, Inc. over a dozen years ago. Her company works with various private developers in several states as well as contracting with the Maryland State Highway Administration and the Architect of the Capitol.
    • In Bethesda, Carmen Ortiz Larsen, born of Ecuadorian parents in Rome, Italy, is the founder and CEO of Aquas Inc., an information technology company. The company focuses on information technology solutions for public- and private-sector clients in the fields of agriculture and environmental science, healthcare, and transit and infrastructure.
  • Regarding Hispanic-owned business growth overall, Raul Medrano, a business development specialist at the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development, noted that Census figures show that Hispanic-owned businesses in Maryland grew almost 68 percent from 2002 to 2007.
    • As Medrano stated, “It doesn’t surprise me that the percentages were so high. The entrepreneurship spirit in the Hispanic community is alive and well.” He also noted that immigrant communities are accustomed to “doing more with less…with taking risks…The mindset is to be resourceful, to seek opportunities, to adjust to change, to be flexible.”
  • In Baltimore, the Baltimore Sun stated that “between 2000 and 2010, when the city's overall population declined by more than 4 percent, the city's Latino community grew by nearly 135 percent, according to the Baltimore City Hispanic Commission. In some South Baltimore and Southeast Baltimore neighborhoods, the percentage of Hispanic and Latino residents went from under 5 percent to more than 20 percent.”
    • Bill Villanueva, president of the Maryland Hispanic Business Conference, described how the community’s growing presence allows greater contributions to the local economy. He noted that since 2010, Hispanic-owned businesses in Maryland have increased from 21,000 to 40,000 in 2013, and that they represent the “fastest-growing business component” in Maryland. He also noted that “a city like Baltimore needs our tax base.”

In Maryland, some localities have begun recognizing and supporting immigration through local “welcoming” and integration initiatives.

  • The statewide Maryland Council for New Americans, created in December 2008, is an office of the state government whose goal is to review and recommend “new policies and practices to expedite immigrant integration into the economic and civic life of the State.”
    • In August 2009, the Council issued a report about renewing immigrant integration in Maryland, with a particular emphasis on workforce, citizenship, financial services, and access to government services. The Council provides information about a variety of organizations and resources that can help newcomers to Maryland better integrate into their new communities.
  • The City of Baltimore is also encouraging ways to attract and welcome immigrants as part of the city’s growth strategy. Recent immigrant welcoming work in Baltimore is based on the findings and recommendations in a report issued by Baltimore’s Abell Foundation in 2002. The report’s conclusion noted that “immigration is the key to reversing Baltimore’s population decline.”
    • In June of 2010, the Baltimore City Council approved a resolution opposing the “Secure Communities” federal immigration enforcement initiative. “Citing the city’s rich immigrant history and recent progress fostering trust between local law enforcement and immigrant communities,” the press release about the action said, “the resolution decries the federal program’s record.”
    • In March of 2012, Baltimore’s Mayor signed an executive order to protect new Americans from discrimination. She stated, “Throughout Baltimore’s great history, we have strived to be a place that welcomes foreign-born residents to participate fully in civic life, recognizing that our city’s ethnic and cultural diversity is a key element to strong and growing neighborhoods.”
  • The Montgomery County Charles W. Gilchrist Center for Cultural Diversity, an affiliate of Welcoming America’s Welcoming Cities and Counties initiative, is the county’s official welcome center for immigrants and newcomers.
    • The Center provides services to immigrants through partnerships with other organizations and through skilled volunteers. Services include information and referral services, English as a second language, workforce development, civic engagement, computer literacy, citizenship, and pro-bono legal assistance.

Download the Infographic here.

Published On: Tue, Jul 09, 2013 | Download File