At a time when cities woo biotechnology firms and sports arenas to jump-start local economies, the economic potential of immigrant entrepreneurs has remained largely under the radar, says the Center for an Urban Future. Though there are no precise figures to measure their economic contributions, the report said, these businesses create jobs in good times and bad. They offset the cyclical slumps of more high-profile sectors like finance in New York or energy in Houston. And they have created ethnic markets that draw shoppers into the city, balancing the loss of retail trade to the suburbs.
The report credits the Bloomberg administration for small-business initiatives that have helped some firms, but calls on public, private and nonprofit agencies to do more to connect immigrant entrepreneurs to the expertise available.
The market for many immigrant businesses is dispersing to the suburbs thanks to strong secondary migration. Furthermore, the costs of staying in the gateway city are increasingly prohibitive. But these entrepreneurs do not have access to the networks of start-up expertise that helps to upscale operations and mitigate crushing overhead.
The irony is that the close proximity to the necessary knowledge isn't enabling immigrant entrepreneurs. If you don't run in the right circles, your address in a "Cool City" won't help you. The Center for an Urban Future calls on brokers of all kinds to bring these new ideas to market. I can already see the immense economic opportunity brewing in the "boomtown" secondary cities as immigrant networks continue to diffuse.