Massachusetts Celebrates Immigrant Entrepreneurship Month

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(Caption: Josiane Martinez, Office For Refugees and Immigrants)
(Photo: Jun Tsuboike / Governor’s Office)

Governor Deval Patrick celebrated Immigrant Entrepreneurship Month this week at the New American Center in Lynn where he heard first-hand accounts from local immigrants about their entrepreneurial successes in Massachusetts.

“Our immigrant communities have always been an integral part of our state’s economic and cultural fabric,” Governor Patrick told the audience. “I am proud to recognize the hard work of our immigrant entrepreneurs who have made Massachusetts home, and whose achievements help keep us in the leadership business.”

Immigrants in Massachusetts have many notable accomplishments of which to be proud. 17.5% of the state’s business owners are immigrants, and they generate $2.8 billion in income for Massachusetts each year, according to the Immigration Policy Center in Washington, DC.

There are 41,248 foreign students in Massachusetts, who contribute $1.5 billion to the state’s economy in tuition, fees and living expenses, according to the NAFSA Association of International Educators. These foreign students help fuel the state’s innovation economy, since 38.7% of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates are foreign born, as are 49.1% of the state’s engineering PhDs. Immigrants co-founded over 25% of the state’s biotechnology companies, notes the Immigrant Learning Center in Malden.

Massachusetts ranks eighth in the nation for newcomers, with an immigrant population that represents over 14 percent of the population and nearly 18% of the state’s workforce, according to the U.S. Census. Latino and Asian-owned businesses alone employ over 50,000 Massachusetts residents, with sales of over $7 billion.

In May, the Patrick Administration announced a federal grant to enhance vocational, educational and citizenship assistance to refugees and immigrants in Massachusetts. The nearly $400,000 grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) will place 90 AmeriCorps members across Massachusetts to provide training and support to 5,000 refugees and immigrants over the next three years.

The Governor’s proposed Act to Promote Growth and Opportunity bill before the Massachusetts legislature has two key elements that would support the immigrant community. One is an investment in workforce tools and training in Gateway Cities as a way to stimulate the economy. The other is the Global Entrepreneur Residence Program, which would allow qualified, highly skilled, international students currently in Massachusetts to stay here after graduation if they are starting or growing a business.

The Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants is a good place to start to find out more about what the Commonwealth is doing to promote full participation of refugees and immigrants as self-sufficient individuals and families in the economic, social and civic life of Massachusetts.