Many Virginians recognize the important contributions local businesses make to the state’s economy — entrepreneurs create jobs and generate revenue that benefit both the worker and consumer.
Few people realize, however, how large a role immigrants play in driving this growth. Some of Virginia’s largest companies were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants. In 2011 these companies generated more than $30 billion in revenue and employed more than 100,000 people.
As an Indian-American business owner, I know that earning success in what was once completely unknown territory is no easy feat. Such success requires ingenuity, determination and, most of all, a commitment to a big dream.
Our economy needs more entrepreneurs with this type of spirit and business owners with this type of ingenuity to keep our economy growing.
In order for this to occur, we have to allow for a favorable environment for foreign businesses to do work in the United States. As they flourish, so does our state.
As beautiful as this vision is, it must be based in reality and the true case is that our current immigration system, and surrounding political climate, simply do not allow for this. Much needs to be done to bridge the gap between vision and viability.
Virginia is not alone in benefiting from the contributions of immigrant entrepreneurs and business owners. States that recognize the economic benefits of retaining and attracting talented and highly skilled foreign workers have tried to find inventive — though perhaps not the most effective — ways to deal with Congress’ inaction on this matter.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick devised a unique proposal that strives to keep foreign-born, U.S.-educated entrepreneurs in the country. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder wanted to attract smart immigrants by earmarking a work-authorized visa program with hopes to fix financially distressed Detroit.
On a national level, the Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE) reported in 2011 that immigrants or their children established more than 40 percent of America’s Fortune 500 companies.
The Fiscal Policy Institute’s Immigration Research Initiative in 2012 found that small businesses owned by immigrants “employed an estimated 4.7 million people,14 percent of all people employed by small business owners. These firms generated an estimated total of $776 billion in receipts in 2007, the most recent year for which these data are available.” The study also reported that 18 percent of small business owners in the United States are immigrants.
In addition to creating jobs and boosting our GDP, immigrant-owned businesses export goods that reduce the trade imbalance, pay taxes and provide goods and services for the consumption of our own citizens.