ARTICLE: Reclaiming Cleveland's Immigrant Entrepreneurs

Submitted by Richard Herman on Fri, 11/19/2004 - 01:10.

In an increasingly global economy, highly skilled and entrepreneurial
immigrants provide the necessary bridge to the talent, business, and
capital in their homeland. The risk-taking factor in the immigrant
community, coupled with scientific accomplishment, internal networks
providing seed capital, and access to inexpensive overseas labor markets,
provide a formidable combination for local economic development. Recent
studies show that immigrants to the U.S. are much more likely to be
entrepreneurs than native-born Americans. For some immigrant groups, the
entrepreneurship rate is 2 to 3 times greater than the American-born
population. As a result, Northeast Ohio is less connected to global
opportunities (particularly in emerging markets), and remains vulnerable
to adverse consequences of globalization.

In contrast, our bustling neighbor to the north, Toronto, enjoys a
foreign-born community that comprises 43% of its total population. In
studying regions around the U.S., research finds that “the leading edge of
population and economic growth in the country is related to immigration,"
particularly from Asia and Latin America. The Brookings study revealed the
percent change of the foreign-born population from 1980 to 2000 for the
following cities: Atlanta: +816%; Raleigh-Durham: +709%; Las Vegas: +637%,
Austin: +580%, Denver: +258%, Salt Lake City: +211%, Minneapolis: +196%
and Cleveland: -11%

Only Pittsburgh and Buffalo (classified like Cleveland as former
"immigrant gateways"), performed worse, by losing -23% and -26%
respectively. Clearly, Cleveland should attempt to reclaim some of its
glory as an immigrant magnet for international talent and
entrepreneurship. Researchers have found that many foreign-born scientists
and engineers in Silicon Valley acted as entrepreneurs and as middlemen
who facilitate trade and investment links with their countries of origin.
In 2000, Indian and Chinese entrepreneurs alone headed 29% of Silicon
Valley’s technology businesses. Collectively, these companies accounted
for $19.5 billion in sales and over 77,000 jobs in Silicon Valley.

Cities like Austin, Denver, Boston, and San Jose have greatly benefited
from high levels of immigrant technology talent. Almost 25% of the
founders or chairman of the biotech companies in the U.S. that went public
in the early 1990s also came from outside the U.S. In an effort to reverse
economic decline and post-industrial depopulation, cities such as
Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Louisville, Philadelphia,
Minneapolis, Schenectady, and the state of Iowa have recently employed
ways to partner with their existing immigrant communities in order to
pro-actively attract more internationals, whether residing in or outside
the U.S., to relocate to an immigrant-friendly destination for starting or
expanding business operations, attending college, raising a family, etc.
Without the rich immigrant history and diversity that Northeast Ohio
enjoys, the Spartanburg-Greenville region of South Carolina has become a
world-class center for manufacturing, creating the highest diversified
foreign investment per capita in the United States.

One of the best ways for Cleveland to boost its international
population and promote economic growth is to attract and retain a greater
international student pool at our area colleges and universities. One of
the key engines for Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial growth in the 1980s
and 1990s was the fact that many international students to California
colleges and universities started new companies in the Valley upon
graduation. This is to be expected considering that the percentage of
Master’s Degrees awarded to foreign students was high in Computer Science
(48%), Physical Science (41%), Engineering (40%), and Mathematics (35%).
Over 44% of all patents filed in the U.S. are filed by internationals.

Cleveland is rich in higher education resources as higher education is
one of Ohio’s most significant “exports.� According to the National
Association of International Educators in 2002-2003, Ohio’s 18,668 foreign
students (and their family members) made a net contribution to the State
economy of $425,028,000 in tuition and living expenses. International
Students to Northeast Ohio contribute over $100,000,000 to the regional
economy per year. Cultivating this population upon arrival in Northeast
Ohio is key, considering that 90% of the foreign students in Northeast
Ohio leave the region upon graduation.

It is clear that successful regions have partnered up with their
immigrant, bilingual and minority communities to help build the necessary
bridges to the global and multicultural marketplace. Multi-cultural meccas
with hyper-global connectivity will dominate the 21st century. Cleveland's
economic woes require work on many fronts, and its rich diversity and
immigrant history provide one of the keys to a future economic
renaissance.

from Cool Cleveland readers Rose A. Zitiello, Esq. and
Richard T. Herman, Esq.
Rose Zitiello, Esq. is a specialist in
community development, and host of Cuyahoga County Community College's
Smart TV program Cleveland's Diversity, Historic and Contemporary
Cultures: Their Struggles and Contributions.
Richard Herman, Esq. is
the principal of Richard T. Herman & Associates, a Cleveland
multicultural law firm speaking over 10 languages and serving diverse
communities. Ms. Zitiello and Mr. Herman are available for public speaking
engagements and consulting. They can be reached at rzitiello [at] aol [dot] com and herman [at] asklawyer [dot] net

This message was previously published in the May 50, 2004 issue of CoolCleveland, found here