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Texas: Immigrant Entrepreneurs, Innovation, and Welcoming Initiatives in the Lone Star State

In Texas, there is no doubt that immigrant entrepreneurs and innovators play an important role. Immigrant entrepreneurs bring in additional revenue, create jobs, and contribute significantly to the state’s economy. Highly skilled immigrants are vital to the state’s innovation industries, and to the metropolitan areas within the state, helping to boost local economies. Furthermore, local government, business, and non-profit leaders recognize the importance of immigrants in their communities and support immigration through local “welcoming” and integration initiatives.

Immigrant entrepreneurs contribute significantly to Texas’ economy.

  • From 2006 to 2010, there were 256,849 new immigrant business owners in Texas, and in 2010, 24.9 percent of all business owners in Texas were foreign-born. Furthermore, from 2007 to 2010, immigrants in Texas founded around 31.3 percent—almost one in three—of all new businesses in the state.
  • In 2010, new immigrant business owners had total net business income of $10 billion, which is 16.7 percent of all net business income in the state.
  • Texas is home to many successful companies with at least one founder who was an immigrant or child of an immigrant, including Fortune 500 companies such as Fluor Corporation, AT&T, RadioShack, and Marathon Oil. Such companies employ hundreds of thousands of people and bring in billions of dollars in revenue each year.
  • Several Texas metro areas have relatively high levels of immigrant business ownership relative to the foreign-born share of their populations.
    • In 2010, of the Texas metro areas that are among the 25 largest U.S. metropolitan areas by total population, the foreign-born share of business owners was 25 percent in Dallas, 31 percent in Houston, and 25 percent in San Antonio. In each case, the immigrant business ownership rate was higher than the particular metro area’s foreign-born share of total population. 

Highly skilled immigrants are vital to Texas’ innovation industries, which in turn helps lead American innovation and creates jobs.

  • Immigrants contribute to Texas’ economic growth and competitiveness by earning patents on new research, products, and ideas. Over 73.8 percent of patents from the University of Texas system in 2011 had at least one foreign-born inventor. These patents from 2011 amount to $38.3 million in University of Texas system licensing and royalty revenues.
  • In 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor certified 27,775 H-1B labor certification applications in Texas, with an average annual wage of $67,942, which is higher than Texas’ median household income of $50,920 or per capita income of $25,548.
  • An expansion of the high-skilled visa program would create an estimated 36,400 new jobs in Texas by 2020. By 2045, this expansion would add around $13 billion to Gross State Product and increase personal income by more than $11 billion. The following are examples of metropolitan area demand for high-skilled foreign-born workers.
    • The Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos metropolitan area had 3,087 H-1B high-skilled visa requests in 2010-2011, with 75.6 percent of H-1B visa-holders working in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) occupations. Major employers with a need for H-1B high-skilled workers include Dell USA, the University of Texas at Austin, Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Intel Corporation, and Freescale Semiconductor Inc.
    • The College Station-Bryan metropolitan area had 313 H-1B visa requests in 2010-2011, with 60 percent of visa-holders working in STEM occupations. Major employers include Texas A&M University, Texas Agrilife Research, and Texas Engineering Experiment Station.
    • The Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area had 10,651 H-1B visa requests in 2010-2011, with 73.7 percent of visa-holders working in STEM occupations. Major employers include Dallas Independent School District, Ericsson Inc., Texas Instruments Incorporated, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and Deloitte Consulting.
    • The El Paso metropolitan area had 261 H-1B visa requests in 2010-2011, with 37.8 percent of visa-holders working in STEM occupations. Major employers include the University of Texas at El Paso.
    • The Houston-Sugarland-Baytown metropolitan area had 10,107 H-1B visa requests in 2010-2011, with 64.7 percent of visa-holders working in STEM occupations. Major employers include the University of Texas Medical Branch, Baylor College of Medicine, Deloitte Consulting, and Schlumberger Technology Corporation.
    • The San Antonio-New Braunfels metropolitan area had 1,251 H-1B visa requests in 2010-2011, with 66.2 percent of visa-holders working in STEM occupations. Major employers include the University of Texas San Antonio, and Rackspace US Inc. 

While the numbers are compelling, they don’t tell the whole story.

  • Immigrant entrepreneurs not only contribute to large innovative companies, but to small business formation in local communities. In cities across Texas, immigrant family-owned small businesses contribute to the vitality of their local communities. Although initially aimed at other immigrant customers, many businesses quickly see an expansion of their clientele to include a diverse array of immigrant and native-born customers alike.
    • In northwest Dallas, Asian immigrant entrepreneurs have transformed a once-dilapidated neighborhood along Harry Hines Boulevard into a bustling Asian Trade District. Immigrant small business owners have played a role in revitalizing this area of the city, filling once-empty store fronts and shopping centers with new restaurant, retail, and service businesses.
    • In the northern Dallas suburb of Plano, Mario Cesar Ramirez opened a restaurant in a deserted shopping center. Over time, his restaurant became a hub of Latino immigrant neighborhood activity and interaction, attracting additional immigrant-owned businesses to open in the shopping center. These new businesses helped revive what was once a boarded-up suburban retail ghost town.
    • Houston, recently deemed the “most diverse city in the United States,” contains examples of immigrant entrepreneurship and small businesses revitalizing urban and suburban neighborhoods. Along west Houston’s Bellaire Boulevard, for example, passersby will find a suburban Asian immigrant business district.

Some localities have begun recognizing and supporting immigration through local “welcoming” and integration initiatives.

  • Austin, Texas: The International Welcome Program[xxiii] is designed to “ease the transition of life in Austin for international newcomers.”
    • Natalie Betts, the City of Austin’s Acting International Economic Development Manager, stated “Austin’s cultural diversity enriches our community and our economy depends on our immigrant population: almost a quarter of our tech start-ups were founded by foreign-born entrepreneurs. We want to make sure that new immigrants feel welcome here and are aware of resources in the city that can help with the transition to life in the United States.” 
    • Upon joining Welcoming America’s Welcoming Cities and Counties Initiative, Betts said of the program: “Austin’s immigrant population is a key driver of our economic prosperity and an asset to our entire community. It is imperative for our continued success that new immigrants feel welcome and at home in Austin.”
  • Houston, Texas: The Office of International Communities and the Global Houston program are initiatives aimed at welcoming newcomers to the Houston area.
    • The Office of International Communities “brings together Houston’s international community by promoting their well-being and connectedness and facilitating their successful civic, economic, and cultural integration in Houston.”
    • Global Houston was developed “to foster better communication and collaboration within Houston’s international community. It serves as Houston’s link to international resources.”

Published On: Thu, Aug 22, 2013 | Download File