On Sept. 25, a group composed primarily of immigrant and minority business owners and managers will gather in the Global Mall to hear a panel of prominent Hispanics discuss their experiences and aspirations.
The event, co-sponsored by the Global Mall and the Tennessee Immigrant and Minority Business Group (TIMBG), will observe Hispanic Heritage Month, which takes place this time every year. Since its reopening in May 2013, the Global Mall has been transformed into a multicultural melting pot, consisting of ethnic restaurants, shops and cultural events — reflecting the diversity of Southeast Nashville.
Since its first meeting one year ago, TIMBG has held monthly events in a variety of locales, hosted by one business person or a small group. Over time, the meetings have tended to feature a panel addressing a common theme such as immigration policies, African women in business or Asian men in business. Attendance has ranged from 50 to 85 people.
Tennessee has one of the fastest-growing immigrant communities in the U.S., earning Nashville the sobriquet as an “Ellis Island.” Immigrants are making notable contributions to the region’s economic development. Music City has become a hub, attracting a steady stream of immigrants. Davidson County alone has an immigrant population of about 40,000, or 7 percent of the total, followed by Williamson County (4 percent) and Rutherford County (3.6 percent).
A recent study of immigrant small-business owners in the U.S. by the Fiscal Policy Institute highlights their contributions to economic development. The study notes that the small-business sector employs 35 million people, accounting for 30 percent of all private sector employment. Of these, firms for which more than half of the owners are immigrants employ 4.7 million people, or 14 percent of all those employed by small businesses. The immigrant share of small-business owners, 18 percent, is higher than the immigrant share of the overall population.
The largest number of immigrant business owners is to be found in the professional and business services sector, followed by retail, educational and social services, leisure and hospitality. The most common types of immigrant-owned businesses include restaurants, doctor’s offices, real estate firms, grocery stores and truck transportation services. Others include taxi services (65 percent owned by immigrants), dry cleaning, laundry services and gas stations.
Mexican immigrants, by far the biggest percentage, make up the largest number of business owners. However, they are less likely than other groups to be small-business owners, in part because a high percentage of them are undocumented. Still, immigrants born in Mexico make up 12 percent of immigrant small-business owners, followed by those born in India, South Korea, Cuba, China and Vietnam. The overall rate of small-business ownership for immigrants is 3.5 percent, compared with 3.3 percent for U.S.-born.
TIMBG will soon be hosting two other events. On Oct. 28, representatives from Nashville Mayor Karl Dean’s office will discuss the Pathway for New Americans initiative. On Nov. 20, TIMBG will present a program to acquaint its members with the U.S. Pan-Asian American Chamber of Commerce.
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