The stereotype in Austin is that anyone who isn’t from here is a foreigner, especially Californians. But too few realize that actual immigrants — I.E., people from other countries — are absolutely vital to our local economy.
In fact, Angela-Jo Touza-Medina, who chairs the Austin Commission on Immigrant Affairs, told Austin Austin ABC affiliate station KVUE-TV that one in four Austin tech entrepreneurs are immigrants. “Twenty-five percent of all new tech-preneurs are foreign born,” she said. “If you consider that we are a tech capital, that’s an important number.”
The commission released a report on Monday detailing challenges facing Austin’s immigrant communities, as part of an effort to make Austin more welcoming. The council is also considering a plan to offer municipal ID cards to undocumented immigrants, similar to programs in Los Angeles, New York City, Oakland, and other major metropolitan areas with large undocumented populations.
KVUE reporter Ashley Goudeau noted statistics from a recent American Enterprise Institute [AEI] study (PDF link) that show 2.62 American jobs are created for every immigrant who works in U.S.-based fields focused on science, technology, engineering, and math [STEM]. AEI’s study also found “no evidence” that undocumented immigrants harm U.S. employment. “Even under the current immigration pattern… there is no statistically significant effect, either positive or negative, on the employment rate among U.S. natives,” the institute explained.
While Austin’s percentage of immigrant tech entrepreneurs may be surprising to some, it should come as no surprise to entrepreneurs with a global perspective. In a September survey of Harvard Business School’s alumni, entrepreneurship is cited as the strongest element of America’s still-recovering economy, ahead of innovation, education, and even capital markets. “[All] elements of entrepreneurial ecosystems, from capital and talent to professional networks and office space, are more available in the U.S. than elsewhere,” the survey noted.
Of course, nowhere in the country is that more true than in Austin. According to a recent study conducted by Austin-based jobs website Indeed.com, Austin has elevated its status from a tech city to a global tech hub and workers are following the jobs. Indeed cited Austin as one of America’s “Big Four” tech hubs, behind San Jose at #1, San Francisco at #2, and Seattle at #3. Salt Lake City trailed Austin by a large margin at #5, underscoring how important tech culture has become for the Texas capital.
Austin is also perfectly positioned to capture anticipated growth in the realm of immigrant-led tech startups over the next 15 years, according to The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation‘s “Age of the Entrepreneur” report, issued in 2013. The foundation forecasts that the influx of immigrants between the ages of 30-40 from now through 2030 will mitigate the negative economic effects of America’s aging population. “Immigrants have higher rates of business creation, including innovative, high-growth companies,” they also found.
Check out this video from KVUE-TV…
Featured photo: Flickr user Sasha Kimel, creative commons licensed.