September 22, 2014. This opinion piece by Galen Spencer Hull celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month by focusing on immigrant and minority businesses.
Tennessee has one of the fastest-growing immigrant communities in the U.S., earning Nashville the sobriquet as an “Ellis Island.” Immigrants are making notable contributions to the region’s economic development. Music City has become a hub, attracting a steady stream of immigrants. Davidson County alone has an immigrant population of about 40,000, or 7 percent of the total, followed by Williamson County (4 percent) and Rutherford County (3.6 percent).
A recent study of immigrant small-business owners in the U.S. by the Fiscal Policy Institute highlights their contributions to economic development. The study notes that the small-business sector employs 35 million people, accounting for 30 percent of all private sector employment. Of these, firms for which more than half of the owners are immigrants employ 4.7 million people, or 14 percent of all those employed by small businesses. The immigrant share of small-business owners, 18 percent, is higher than the immigrant share of the overall population.
Hull has done groundbreaking research on immigrants in Nashville himself, and recently met with FPI staff to discuss immigrant small businesses in Nashville for an upcoming FPI report.