Sunday, February 25, 2007

Immigrant entrepreneurship in Houston

A think tank in New York called the "Center for and Urban Future" has recently released a report on immigrant entrepreneurship, with a specific focus on New York, LA, Houston, and Boston (NY Times story). The Houston section is an easy 3-page read that starts on p.52, and highly recommended. A few Houston-specific excerpts from both the main report and the Houston section:
In Houston, a telecommunications firm started by a Pakistani immigrant topped the 2006 Houston Small Business 100 list, a ranking of the city’s most successful small businesses compiled by the Houston Business Journal. Additionally, a Houston-based energy company started by a Nigerian immigrant was recently named the second largest black-owned firm in the U.S. by Black Enterprise magazine.
...
In Houston, 94 percent of the growth in businesses between 1995 and 2005 occurred among firms with fewer than 50 employees.
...
Houston ranks third among all American cities in the number of Hispanic-owned businesses (41,753) and sixth in the number of Asian-owned firms (15,966). It is also home to 16 of the largest 500 Hispanic-owned firms in the country.
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There is evidence that fewer immigrant- and minority-owned businesses in New York grow to the next level than in other cities. For instance, of the 15 cities in the U.S. that have the most Hispanic-owned businesses, New York has the lowest average receipts per firm. The average Hispanic-owned company in the five boroughs earned just 37 percent as much as the average Hispanic-owned firm in Houston, 40 percent of the average in Chicago and 42 percent of the average in Miami. According to Hispanic Business magazine, only 11 of the nation’s 500 largest Hispanic firms (and just one of the top 100) were based in New York City in 2006, down from 13 in 2004. In contrast, 16 firms from Houston and 36 from Los Angeles County were on the list.

Similarly, New York City’s Asian-owned businesses took in a smaller amount of receipts, on average, than their counterparts in 13 of the 15 cities with the most Asian-owned firms. The average Asian-owned firm in New York earned 48 percent as much as a similar firm in Los Angeles, 57 percent of one in Houston, and 71 percent of one in San Francisco.

(I think a factor here is freeway vs. transit/pedestrian mobility: freeway mobility is generally faster and more flexible, allowing businesses to serve a larger area and a larger number of customers)
...
Houston has the largest Nigerian population in the U.S. and the third largest Vietnamese community. Hispanics, however, now outnumber all other groups in Houston, accounting for 37 percent of the city’s population (Anglos make up 31 percent, blacks 25 percent and Asians/others 7 percent).
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Another particularly vivid illustration of Houston’s recent immigration influx has been the inexorable expansion of Houston’s thriving Asian business district along Bellaire Boulevard. Once a barren and rundown area, it’s now the largest Asian business district in the South, and still growing. Today, several hundred Chinese and Vietnamese businesses line strip mall after strip mall for miles along this sprawling district, with new shopping centers seemingly going up every month.
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Immigrant entrepreneurs have thrived in Houston for many of the same reasons as other small business owners in this commerce-friendly city: a surplus of inexpensive real estate, no zoning restrictions, relatively low labor costs and affordable housing. All of this makes it relatively easy to open and expand a business, according to local business leader Tim Cisneros. “Houston may be America’s last frontier of true opportunity,” he says. “Immigrants feel welcomed.”

Indeed, Houston has the fourth-highest rate of entrepreneurial activity among the nation’s 15 largest metropolitan areas, behind only Atlanta, Riverside/San Bernadino, CA and San Francisco, according to a 2006 report by the Kauffman Foundation.

Nevertheless, immigrant entrepreneurs in Houston encounter similar obstacles as those in other cities, from language barriers to financing roadblocks. One drawback more unique to Houston is that it doesn’t have nearly as extensive a network of business assistance services available to entrepreneurs—offered by either nonprofits or the local government—as cities like New York and Los Angeles.
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...too few immigrant entrepreneurs in Houston make use of the city’s One Stop Business Center, which she heralds as a tremendously useful resource for individuals looking to start a business. “Very few people know it exists,” says Brooks. “They give you a list of permits you need, the cost of those permits, what standards you need for day care, home health agency, a salon or a restaurant. It tells you all the stuff that you need. But the city of Houston doesn’t advertise it. One percent [of all immigrant entrepreneurs] know to go down there to get this information.”
If we're doing so well without the support resources, imagine the incredible potential if we had them and more people knew about them...

3 Comments:

At 8:32 PM, March 31, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew that there was a great need for small business resources for Houston's huge immigrant population.

 
At 8:34 PM, March 31, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally-someone else that sees what Houston is lacking in for our immigrant small business community. Thank you.

 
At 8:35 PM, March 31, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like I need to stop thinking about it and I need to get to it.

 

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