By both area and population, Texas is the second-largest State in the nation. It is home to 26.96 million people as of 2014, and of that number, approximately 4,533,428 are foreign born. In 2013, the State’s GDP was $1.414 trillion, and that number is only set to rise as entrepreneurs from all over the world choose Texas as their home base, providing a valuable source of jobs for American workers, and contributing to the growth of their chosen industries and, consequently, the economy as a whole.
Immigrants in Texas
Texas is increasingly diverse and is a hotbed of multicultural activity. In 2011, small businesses and entrepreneurial efforts of immigrants contributed $65 billion in economic output to the state in terms of wages, salary, and business earnings. 19 Small businesses owned by immigrants contributed $4.4 billion in earnings to the state’s economy in 2011. This comprises nearly a fifth of all small business incomes. 16.5% of the Texan population is made up of immigrants, who contribute 17.7% of the State’s total small business income. Texas recognizes the worth of the fresh ideas immigrants bring to the table, and immigrant entrepreneurs with the ambition, funding, and plan to make their dream happen need look no further than Texas for favorable odds of success in their business endeavors.
Houston – Harris County
Those seeking to start or expand their business from overseas need look no further than Houston and Harris County. The Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land Metropolitan Statistical Area (Houston MSA) consists of 9 counties: Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, and Waller. The metro area’s 2015 population of 6.6 million ranks fifth among U.S. metropolitan statistical areas. The Houston MSA covers 9,444 square miles, an area larger than New Jersey, and its nominal gross area product in 2014 was $525.4 billion, according to U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Houston was named the top U.S. city for job creation by the U.S. Bureau of Statistics in 2013, as it not only regained every job lost to the recession but added over two jobs for each one lost. Immigrant entrepreneurs played an important role in this economic upturn, since over 100 foreign-owned companies moved to Houston, grew their existing businesses within the city, or started new businesses there between 2008 and 2010.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the majority of the migration to Houston has been from Latin America, Asia, and Africa, breaking the old pattern of primarily European immigration. Harris County’s population is now 7.2 percent Asian, 17.6 percent African-American, 37 percent Anglo, and 38.2 percent Latino. Houston’s welcoming attitude towards external business bolstered job creation during a time when domestic demand was challengingly low. Its real gross area product (GAP) is anticipated to grow at a 3.35 percent annual rate over the next 25 years, topping $1.12 trillion in 2040. Almost 1.63 million net new jobs are projected to be gained over the forecast period, a 1.7 percent annual rate.
Government diversity and integration efforts – At the government level, Texas and Houston are deeply invested in the success of its immigrants. Two of its State Representatives, Hubert Vo and Gene Wu, are Vietnamese and Chinese and are both first-generation immigrants. Until recently, Al Hoang, a Vietnamese immigrant, served on the City Council, and the city is open to international trade. It hosts a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce, and an Asian Chamber of Commerce that represents Pakistan, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Korea, Japan, India, and many other countries.
Houston’s Mayor, Mr. Sylvester Turner, acknowledges that Houston is “the most diverse city in the nation,” and recognizes the city’s responsibility to provide “fair access to jobs, education, essential services and a voice in local government.” To this end, the City of Houston Office of International Communities, Neighborhood Centers and the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative have joined the Welcoming City project as of August 2016.
The Welcoming City Project is a nationwide initiative that has been adopted by several major cities across the United States. Its goal is to welcome immigrants and refugees, and strategically provide them with the tools they need to thrive in the United States. It aims to make cities more inclusive and provide opportunities for people from every corner of the globe to contribute, both economically and culturally. It will make every effort to provide immigrants with economic mobility, education, language access, access to public services, and help with gaining and maintaining legal status if needed. This effort will require the collaboration of the community at large, including leaders in business, non-profit, education, faith, and cultural groups. This collaboration will help to make Houston even more welcoming for immigrants seeking the best possible environment for themselves, their businesses, and their families.
Foreign Born Houston Business Owners
31% of business owners in Houston are foreign born, and the city played host to the first-ever “Success in the U.S.” conference on June 18, 2016. It is the first conference of its kind and is designed to give immigrant entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed in the American marketplace by holding panels on topics like raising financing, selling to U.S. companies, franchising, winning government contracts, and becoming a large U.S. company supplier. Immigrant entrepreneurs in Texas will find themselves met with ample support, no matter which industry they seek to enter. Immigrant entrepreneurs and investors have thrived in the real estate and energy sectors, but have also found great success in the retail, manufacturing, and restaurant industries, either by purchasing franchises or by starting brand new companies.
Houston is a cultural hub due, in part, to its international infrastructure. The very fabric of the city is knit from diverse communities from across the world, and each new immigrant adds a piece of their culture to the area. Houston is home to thriving religious communities for all faiths, and offers dozens of mosques, synagogues, and churches for all denominations. The city’s thriving culinary scene gains its greatness from its diversity, and it offers a huge number of ethnic grocery stores, and restaurants that range from take-out to fine dining, and flavors that will suit any palate. Even Houston’s popular media reveals its acceptance of other cultures and languages. The area has three Spanish-language TV channels, including Estrella TV, Unimas 67, and Telemundo 47. The city is also home to 11 foreign language newspapers, including 9 in Spanish, 1 in Vietnamese, and 1 in Russian. South Asians have an especially strong influence over the area.
Over 1,500 South Asian business owners have joined to form the “Greater Houston Retailers Cooperative Association,” which is a collaboration of convenience stores that cooperate to gain discounts from manufacturers It also offers its members and insurance program, education and training seminars, legal consultation, and more. All of these combine to make Houston a welcoming environment where immigrants can both enhance the local culture and find a taste of home.
Houston aims to prepare its students for careers in a global marketplace. The Houston Independent School District offers its students the opportunity to learn Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Vietnamese, Nepali, and Urdu. It offers native speakers of theses languages the chance to learn English, further helping them integrate into the community and giving them the communication tools they will need as they progress through school and into their professional lives. It also hosts the Migrant Education program, which is designed specifically for immigrants seeking to overcome the language barrier. An increasing number of high schools in Houston require foreign language classes to graduate, and many elementary and middle schools are following suit. Several elementary schools are taking language learning to the next level by integrating the student’s chosen language into the rest of their studies for maximum exposure. Dual language French, Arabic, Spanish, and Mandarin immersion are currently available in select Houston magnet schools.
When it comes to higher education, few cities have an outlook as global as Houston’s. Houston Community College welcomes immigrants, like Indian-born Neeta Sane, who was elected to sit on the Board of Trustees, to high-profile positions. Houston Community College’s goal is to “prepare students to address issues that transcend national boundaries while fostering good citizenship.” Over 12% of Houston’s Rice University students are international, and the University of Houston welcomes students from 137 nations, making it among the top 25 higher education institutions with the highest international enrolment in the United States. For a foreign-born student, few places in the USA offer the support, acceptance, and guidance through the challenges of entering a new culture that is available at every grade level in Houston.
Future Growth in Houston
Houston, Harris County and several other parts of Texas are thriving both economically and culturally, and the State’s growth and diversification show no signs of slowing down. For immigrant entrepreneurs seeking an environment that fosters creativity and innovation, and that welcomes all cultures and understands their value, Texas is an exceptional place to call home.
About the JDC Consultancy U.S. State Featurettes
Moving to the United States to make a new start as an immigrant entrepreneur is a challenging process. Visa applicants face a huge number of critical decisions before submitting their visa application, one of the most important of which is deciding which State will offer the best environment for their business to grow and thrive, and provide the optimal environment for their families. Each State has its own opportunities and industry specializations, and a company that sees tremendous growth in one State might not see the same results in another.
To help its clients decide which State will serve as the most advantageous home base, both for their businesses and their families and further streamline the visa application process, JDC Consultancy publishes brief overviews of what each State has to offer its immigrant entrepreneurs. These featurettes showcase each State’s strengths and provide valuable insight and statistics to help immigrant entrepreneurs make the all-important decision of which State they, their family, and their businesses, should call home.