03.07.2011 – City Aids Entrepreneurial Immigrants – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

City aids entrepreneurial immigrants

New York City to start offering its free small business courses in Chinese, Korean and Russian; Latino and Asian immigrants startups grew the fastest, one study shows.

By Benjamin J. Spencer
March 7, 2011 12:05 p.m.
Entrepreneurial immigrants will soon be able to take the city’s free small business courses in Chinese, Korean and Russian, thanks to a new city initiative unveiled last week.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the plan as part of three new programs aimed at aiding New York’s immigrant entrepreneurs. The Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, in conjunction with the city’s Economic Development Corp. and Department of Small Business Services, are funding the programs.

The language component will begin “immediately” with the creation of a pilot program to translate the city’s free small business courses into Chinese, Korean, and Russian, according to EDC spokesman Kyle Sklerov. Existing Spanish language courses will also be expanded.

The initiative represents a step forward for immigrant businesses, according to Yanki Tshering, executive director of the Business Center for New Americans, a New York City-based nonprofit that aids immigrant entrepreneurs.

“It’s definitely been a long time in coming,” said Ms. Tshering. Historically, she said, there has been “a lack of awareness of the need for support for immigrant business, especially considering how progressive New York City is and the high number of immigrants that are here.”

The mayor’s actions come at a time when the percentage of new immigrant entrepreneurs soared nationwide. The Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, which tracks monthly business creation, found that for 2010, an average of 620 out of 100,000 immigrants, or 0.6%, started a new business monthly, compared to only 280 out of 100,000, or 0.3%, for native-born citizens.

That gap is widening. While business creation by immigrants rose sharply from 2009 to 2010, the rate started native-born Americans dropped. The index culled data from the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to come up with the figures.

Latino and Asian immigrant business startups grew the fastest, according to the Kauffman Foundation.

“The mayor is committed to these groups,” Mr. Sklerov said. “They will be a huge part of New York’s future.” Mr. Sklerov cited a 2007 Center for an Urban Future study finding that even back in 2000, immigrants made up 49% of all self-employed workers in the city. 2010 U.S. Census statistics won’t be available until later this year.

Despite their role in the local small business community, immigrants in NYC face daunting barriers, such as access to credit, Mr. Sklerov said. The city and the Deutsche Bank foundation will split the costs for a competition that will award $25,000 each to five city nonprofits that create plans to aid immigrant entrepreneurs. The nonprofit deemed to have the best plan to promote immigrant startups at the end of a pilot period will be awarded an additional $100,000.

Mr. Sklerov said the city will begin accepting plan submissions from nonprofits sometime this summer and will pick the ultimate winner by next year. The main requirement of a good plan, he said, will be inclusiveness. “We live in a large city,” he said. “We’re looking for something that’s going to work for immigrants everywhere in New York.”

The Economic Development Corp. and Department of Small Business Services are working with Baruch College, the Pratt Center for Community Development and the South Brooklyn Industrial Development Corp. to plan a business expo for local immigrant-run food manufacturing businesses. Baruch College’s Newman Conference Center in Manhattan will host the expo on May 25.

Ms. Tshering said the Business Center for New Americans was “very excited” about the initiatives. “We will definitely participate in the competition,” she said, noting that Deutsche Bank representatives keen on funding immigrant business had already contacted her organization.

The biggest step forward in the initiatives will be to give immigrant business owners more access to information, Ms. Tschering said. “And I think the mayor sincerely means that.”

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beejmckay

"The crew of the 'Rose Noelle" sits at Constable Godinet's dining table, enjoying a breakfast of whiskey and ice cream." Name's Beej. I'm a writer, filmmaker, amateur guitarist and drummer, and sometime photographer based in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

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