Thursday, June 21, 2012

Immigrant Entrepreneurs in St. Louis: You Have To Hustle

On Wednesday, June 20th, in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Tim Logan reported that St. Louis' high-skilled, entrepreneurial immigrants have helped the region's economy, and that to spur further growth, more immigrants are needed in the region.

Carmen Jacob, NextGen's founder, was interviewed for the article:

Carmen Jacob saw an opportunity 15 years ago, when she heard some big local companies say they had a hard time finding good information technology workers. So she launched NextGen, an IT staffing agency downtown. Now she provides workers on a contract basis to big companies such as AT&T, Ameren and Monsanto.
A native Guatemalan, Jacob came to St. Louis 24 years ago. She said there are challenges to breaking into a male-dominated industry. But, she's found, if you provide a good service, people will hire you.
"You have to hustle," she said.
The Post-Dispatch article coincides with a study conducted by Jack Strauss, an economist at Saint Louis University, which points out that immigrants in St. Louis have a greater impact on the economy of St. Louis through entrepreneurial activity than non-immigrants, per capita. Strauss' study notes that immigrant households in the region tend to earn 25% more than native-born households, and foreign-born residents are 44% more likely to have a college degree and 60% more likely to start a business.

Furthermore, the Wall Street Journal on June 21, 2012, contained an op-ed by Matthew Slaughter that said:
As for start-ups, a 2007 study by researchers at Duke and [the University of California at] Berkeley found that 25% of all U.S. high-technology firms established between 1995 and 2005 had at least one foreign-born founder. In 2005, these new companies employed 450,000 workers and generated over $50 billion in sales.
The Post-Dispatch cites other immigrants helping to stimulate the St. Louis region's growth: 75 researchers at the Danforth Plant Science Center, and Rao Chilakala, owner of Mayuri Indian Restaurant. St. Louis is also home to the International Institute of St. Louis, which has helped about 500 resettled foreign refugees start businesses, as well as Bosnian, Hispanic, and Asian-American Chambers of Commerce.

What do you think? How can this region attract further entrepreneurial activity by foreigners? What else could St. Louis do to spur economic growth?

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