NJPP: Immigrant Small Business Ownership is a Cornerstone of New Jersey’s Economy

Immigrant Small Business Ownership is a Cornerstone of New Jersey’s Economy

For Immediate Release


TRENTON, NJ (March 18, 2019) – New Jersey immigrants make up 47 percent of the state’s Main Street businesses despite only accounting for 22 percent of the state’s population, according to a new report released today by New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP).


The report, Immigrant Small Business Ownership is a Cornerstone of New Jersey’s Economy, was authored by NJPP policy analyst Erika Nava, and measures the vital role that immigrants play in local economies across the state. Erika Nava was joined on a conference call by Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic), Passaic Mayor Hector Lora, Alfonso Hernandez, owner of Ay Chihuahua! in Passaic, and members of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey to unveil the report findings.


“This report is proof that New Jersey’s immigrants are an asset not only to our state’s rich and diverse culture, but also to the broader economy,” said Erika Nava, Policy Analyst at NJPP and author of the report. “Immigrants in New Jersey own a higher share of Main Street businesses than in any other state not named California. These immigrant-owned businesses anchor local economies across the state, providing goods, services, and job opportunities in their respective communities. When immigrants come to this state, they do so not only to provide for their families, but to invest in New Jersey. Lawmakers should recognize the vital role that immigrants play in our economy and ensure state laws support them.”


The results of this report echo a nationwide trend, as immigrants are almost twice as likely to start new businesses than their native born peers. In New Jersey, immigrant owned businesses generate $4.4 billion in annual income, with $950 million coming from Main Street businesses.


“NJPP’s report confirms that immigrant owned Main Street businesses are the backbone of our local economy,” Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic). “Immigrant business owners affirm the American Dream and they contribute more than the $4.4 billion in economic activity. Immigrant entrepreneurs are a vital piece of New Jersey’s social and economic fabric. New Jersey immigrant business owners are a critical and necessary alliance for our state’s future success.”


New Jersey’s immigrant business owners are much more diverse than US-born business owners. They also own a diverse array of businesses: immigrant owners make up 8 out of 10 dry cleaners and 7 out of 10 grocery stores and bodegas. Further, immigrant entrepreneurs own 50 percent or more of the state’s household maintenance businesses, transportation services, nail salons, computer service centers, restaurants, and clothing stores.


“This report supports with hard numbers what anyone who has walked down Passaic Avenue or Main Street knows — that immigrant owned small businesses are the lifeblood of our local economy here in Passaic and across New Jersey,” said Passaic Mayor Hector Lora. “Immigrant small businesses inject money into the local economy, help employ thousands of New Jerseyans, and provide critical services to our communities. Our state lawmakers must take into account the large contributions of immigrants to the Garden State as they make policies that impact us all.”


Mounting evidence suggests that immigrants are more likely to start and own small businesses because they face discrimination in the job market due to limited English proficiency and, sometimes, their citizenship status.


“We are the voice of NJ’s 120,000 Hispanic Owned Businesses,” said Carlos Medina, Esq., President and CEO of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.  “These businesses are often started by immigrants that come to this country overqualified for the jobs they are offered and prefer to take their skills and become entrepreneurs. Hispanic businesses are growing at more than 15 times the rate of all U.S. firms, and in the last recession ultimately helped dig the US out of that recession with their business growth.”


Small businesses, specifically those on Main Street, help neighborhoods stay economically active and, in some cases, revitalize cities experiencing population decline. Small businesses also help increase the local tax base and stimulate consumer spending in local economies.


“My husband and I came to this country more than twenty years ago and have put down roots. Two years ago we opened Ay Chihuahua!, and our restaurant is an important place in the community where we create a warm and welcome place for our neighbors,” said Abril Hernandez, owner of Ay Chihuahua! In Passaic, New Jersey. “We also provide good jobs to our workers. We encourage our elected officials to support immigrant small business owners and to recognize our work and our contributions to the economy. Too often immigrants are shamed as stealing jobs. We are actually creating jobs across the Garden State. New Jersey should recognize our contributions by making it easier for immigrants to participate in our economy and support our families. One way to do that is by expanding driver’s licenses to all qualified drivers, regardless of immigration status. That way everyone can take their family more safely to school and work, and to participate in our local economies. It would only increase the large contribution immigrants make to our economy.”


To view the full report, click here.

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