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Impact - March 2011

Mayor runs with CUF recommendations to support immigrant entrepreneurs

Today, the Mayor announced three new steps to make it easier for immigrant-owned businesses to start and grow in New York City. All three mayoral initiatives were heavily influenced by the Center.

Tags: economic growth entrepreneurship immigrants

When the Center published its landmark World of Opportunity study in 2007 about the catalytic impact of immigrant entrepreneurs across the five boroughs, we noted that immigrant entrepreneurs weren't really on the radar of city economic development officials and that most of the city's small business services weren't reaching immigrant communities. Since then, however, the Bloomberg administration has shown great leadership on this issue. Today, the Mayor announced (PDF) three new steps to make it easier for immigrant-owned businesses to start and grow in New York City. All three mayoral initiatives were heavily influenced by the Center, which has provided input to city agencies in recent months, and the city's press release includes data from our report showing that nearly half of the city's self employed workers are foreign borm. 

The three new initiatives are:

  • A business plan competition for innovative strategies to provide assistance to immigrant entrepreneurs, which will be a joint-effort of the city's Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation.
  • New, free NYC Business Solution courses in Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and Russian.
  • A business expo to showcase locally-based immigrant food manufacturing businesses and link them to consumers nationwide.

The proposals echo the suggestions from our World of Opportunity report. For instance:

  • We called on the city to develop a "new framework for providing business services to immigrants," since we documented that few of the existing small business assistance programs are reaching immigrant entrepreneurs. We urged the city to create "a new set of specially-tailored mechanisms for serving immigrant communities that take into account the limitations of traditional government run programs and the different cultural norms and practices of those communities."
  • We recommended that city economic development agencies "partner with local organizations that have credibility in immigrant communities." We noted that while "countless numbers of legal immigrants will never seek assistance from a government-run center—and that many won't set foot into a nonprofit organization they don't trust, many immigrants are eager to work with organizations that are based in their own community, have staff that speak their language."
  • We recommended that the city "initiate a major new initiative to help local immigrant-run businesses export their products beyond the five boroughs." We noted: "A major opportunity for economic growth lies with the scores of businesses that manufacture unique ethnic products or import foreign goods for distribution. Many of these firms could easily expand their operations—and create new jobs—by exporting their goods and services to other parts of the country that have emerging immigrant populations but few ethnic businesses of their own. With minimal support, some of the city's small immigrant-run firms might become the next Goya or Golden Krust. EDC should create a new initiative to actively target these businesses and provide resources to help them develop the expertise and capacity to export into new markets."

Read the New York Times' coverage of the Mayor's proposals here.