Precision-manufacturing firm Galaxy Enterprises is considered big business in Rothsay, Minnesota, population 600. The company employs nine people, eight of whom are Americans, and brings in more than $1 million a year. Yet getting started wasn’t easy for the firm’s Brazilian founder, Roque Rossetti, thanks to U.S. immigration policy. “My experience with immigration is that it did not help me whatsoever with starting a business,” he says.
Rossetti fell in love with Minnesota while visiting his brother there in the 1990s. He soon landed a spot in a work-travel exchange program that allowed him to stay in the United States for one year, working as a mechanic. He returned to Brazil when the program ended, but, less than a year later, a job offer with a Minnesota manufacturing company gave him the opportunity to return. At that point in his career, Rossetti’s professional experience had grown to include working with CNC Machines, water-jet operation, custom plastics fabrication and customer management. He was eager to strike out on his own, but his visa required that he be employed by a pre-existing company. So Rossetti launched his own business, Galaxy Enterprises, LLC, while still working full time for the manufacturing company that had sponsored his visa.
As Rossetti’s company grew, his immigration status presented other challenges. “I have a degree in business administration, but I always kind of liked mechanics and engines and computers and things like that,” Rossetti says. “All the money that I had to start a business was money I’d saved working weekends, nights, and holidays.” In the beginning, he outsourced manufacturing and fabrication, since he didn’t have the capital to buy equipment. “I was pretty much the middle guy,” he says. “So a customer tells me that they need something, I’ll find somebody that can sell me that part and grab a few different quotes, and I go with the lowest quote and I’ll put a markup on it and sell it to you and make a profit.”
Using that method, Rossetti was able to keep his company moving forward until he could save enough money to buy precision manufacturing equipment and make products in America. The first piece of equipment he bought was a Craftsman drill press, which paid for itself in the first year. One job he recalls: Fix 5,000 defective parts a customer ordered from China. “I charged a dollar a part and am very proud to say that I made $5,000 on a $375 drill press, which I still own and use weekly for minor, second operations.”
Rossetti recently purchased his sixth CNC Mill, a piece that costs $110,000. He now hopes to be able to bid on government contracts to manufacture and sell products to the U.S. military and, in the process, create more jobs for his community. Galaxy Enterprises specializes in manufacturing parts used in the medical and aerospace industries, as well as in the agriculture, marine, and oil sectors.
These days, Rossetti is fully invested in his adopted home. He’s served three years as a volunteer fireman and first responder; donates to a local public school and its sports programs ($4,000 in 2016 alone); and raises money for families with sick children. He also encourages kids to consider working in precision manufacturing. “I give the Rothsay High School kids tours in the facility here, so they can see what machine tool technology is all about,” he says. “It’s a good job that pays a salary between $40,000 and $70,000 here in Minnesota, and $100,000 to $120,000 in California. There aren’t very many machinists out there anymore. I blame part of the problem on outsourcing work to companies overseas as it took jobs away, thus pushing that specific workforce to pursue a different profession and other means of income.”
The great majority of immigrant entrepreneurs, like myself, don’t have $500,000 or $1 million to start a business and therefore be granted a green card. What if the rules changed? How many more jobs could be created, how much more in taxes would be collected?
Rossetti recently became a U.S. citizen. “My family always loved the country and lifestyle and we identified with the ethos,” he says. But he wishes that immigration policy could better meet the business needs of those immigrants who come to the country legally and follow the rules. “Why is it so hard for immigrants who are able and willing to offer something to the country and community, when so much is given and paid to others not so willing or dedicated?” he asks. He also wishes that immigration policy made it easier for promising immigrants to start new businesses, by providing entrepreneur visas so founders wouldn’t have to work a full-time job while their companies get off the ground. “The great majority of immigrant entrepreneurs, like myself, don’t have $500,000 or $1 million to start a business and therefore be granted a green card,” Rossetti says. “What if the rules changed? How many more jobs could be created, how much more in taxes would be collected?”