Welcoming immigrants from all over the globe is an integral part of Pennsylvania’s history. William Penn, who founded Pennsylvania in 1681, was devoted to making his colony a community that welcomed immigrants of all nationalities and faiths. Its anticipated 2016 population is about 12.815 million. Despite recent political controversies, that tradition continues today, and Pennsylvania is home to over 759,837 immigrants as of 2013. These immigrants make up over 5.9% of the State’s population, and the majority of them hail from India, China, and Mexico. Pennsylvania’s immigrant population rose by 49.6% between 2000 and 2013, and immigrants continue to gain social, political, and economic influence. The number of foreign-born Pennsylvanians who are eligible to vote has risen by a significant 109,842 between 2012 and 2016, and this number is expected to swell to 228,238 by 2020, meaning that they will have more say in public policy than ever before.
Immigrant Economic Contribution
As in many other states, immigrants contribute heavily to STEM fields in Pennsylvania. As of 2013, 1 in 3 STEM Master’s and PhD students and 48.8% of STEM graduates in the state were foreign-born. Immigrant STEM graduates create much-needed jobs for Americans. It is estimated that for every 100 of these graduates, 262 new jobs are created. Due to their tendency to study STEM subjects, immigrants will be more equipped than the typical American citizen to fill the estimated 258,610 new STEM jobs that will become available by 2020.
Latino and Asian immigrants account for a particularly significant economic impact in Pennsylvania. About 1 in 11 Pennsylvania residents are Latino or Asian. They comprise about 9% of the state’s total population as of 2015 and hold an impressive $36.3 billion in purchasing power. Latinos owned about 22,777 businesses in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners. These businesses employed about 15,362 workers and earned about $3.2 billion. Asian business owners’ 31,313 businesses fared even better, earning about $11.6 billion and employing about 58,506 people. They are profitable business owners, and the companies they run created about 73,000 jobs and brought in about $14.8 billion in 2015.
In Pennsylvania, foreign-born business owners are not limited by industry. Their ingenuity has allowed them to succeed in retail, food services, neighborhood services, and accommodation services, where they control about 28.2% of businesses in the state and 11.1% in the Pittsburgh metro area.
Despite some recent resistance, Pennsylvania recognizes the positive economic impact that immigrants represent for the local economy, and see the need for immigration reform. Streamlining immigration procedures will bring thousands of jobs and millions of dollars to the state, and failing to do so has cost the state in both jobs and revenue. Between 2007-2008, H-1B visa refusals cost Pennsylvania $96,418,000 in lost earnings and about 5,859 jobs in the technology sector alone. When immigrants are accepted, Pennsylvanians win. It is estimated that, by 2020, the H-1B visas issued between 2010 and 2013 will have created 25,477 employment opportunities for American workers. Pennsylvania cannot ignore numbers like these and will continue to welcome immigrants from all over the world to enrich its economy.
Immigrant entrepreneurs seeking a home base with a positive attitude towards immigrants and a variety of successful industries need look no further than Philadelphia. Philadelphia is Pennsylvania’s largest city, with a 2014 population of about 1,560,292. The Delaware Valley metropolitan area, of which it is a part, is the eighth-largest combined statistical area in the U.S., with about 1.2 million residents.
Philadelphia is an international education hub, with the third-largest student concentration on the East Coast. The area boasts over 80 universities, colleges, and trade schools, which welcome over 300,000 students. The Ivy League University of Pennsylvania is the oldest university in the United States and is one of the founding members of the Association of American Universities.
Philadelphia is a burgeoning economic force that offers opportunities to anyone willing to innovate and put in hard work. The city is home to seven Fortune 1000 companies and had a GDP of $388 billion. Philadelphia is considered an ‘Alpha – City’ by the Global and World Cities Research Network in its categorization of world cities. The city’s largest economic sector is finance, and it is home to the Philadelphia Stock Exchange.
Other significant industries include manufacturing, information technology, oil refining, healthcare, biotechnology, food processing, and tourism. A few of the area’s largest, most influential companies include Comcast, CIGNA, Sunoco, Independence Blue Cross, and Pep Boys. Due to its historical significance and the fact that it is home to famous landmarks like the Liberty Bell, and Independence Hall, Philadelphia has a large tourism industry. The city welcomed about 39 million tourists in 2013, and these visitors injected about $10 billion into the local economy. Philadelphia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been called home by numerous famous figures, including Betsy Ross, who sewed the first American flag. Three of the nation’s most important documents were written in Pennsylvania: The U.S. Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Gettysburg Address.
Regardless of their company’s industry, immigrant entrepreneurs are sure to find their niche in Philadelphia. It is an American city to the core, but has an international outlook and welcomes the contributions of its immigrants.
Assistance for Immigrants
For immigrant entrepreneurs in need of support, as they adjust to their lives and start businesses in Pennsylvania, there are many resources available. One of the most helpful of these is Small Business Development Center (SBDC). This organization offers immigrant entrepreneurs the Immpreneur: The Immigrant Entrepreneur’s Toolbox program, Vibrant Pittsburgh, which offers job counseling and helps companies expand their businesses, and The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, which includes English classes, individual assistance for business owners, and access to important data, like market research. It also offers business clinics, workshops, step-by-step guides to licensing and regulatory requirements, and other vital, helpful services. No matter where an immigrant entrepreneur comes from, what their business and personal goals are, or what industry they intend to enter, they will find plenty of opportunity in the Keystone State.
About the JDC Consultancy U.S. State Featurettes
Moving to the United States to make a new start as a foreign entrepreneur is a challenging process. U.S. 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, in this case, Pennsylvania, and provide valuable insight and statistics to help immigrant entrepreneurs make the all-important decision of which State they, and their businesses, should call home.