Study: Immigrants Drive Our Economy

In our last blog post, we discussed a recent article by Glenn Llopis, arguing that Americans need to recommit themselves to the immigrant values that made our country great. (See Embrace Immigrant Values to Succeed! MurthyBlog, 21.Jul.2011.) Making his case for immigrant values, Llopis points to a recent study by the Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE), which he said, “will help you truly appreciate the impact and influence of immigrants in America,” and “help you understand why the immigrant perspective will be at the core of America’s economic and societal reinvention.” (See Why Employees Must Embrace Their Immigrant Values to Unleash Their True Potential, by Glenn Llopis,

As we noted last December, the Partnership for a New American Economy was established by billionaire philanthropist – and New York City Mayor – Michael Bloomberg, to promote a new immigration policy that will attract the best and brightest workers, and the most ambitious entrepreneurs, to our country. (See Mayor Bloomberg on Immigration, MurthyBlog, 16.Dec.2010.) Mayor Bloomberg is joined in this effort by several other big-city mayors, and a host of top executives from major U.S. companies, including Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer; American Express Chairman/CEO, Ken Chenault; Boeing’s Chairman/CEO Jim McNerney; Disney Chairman/CEO Bob Iger, among others.

The PNAE recently released a report highlighting the role of immigrants in building the American economy, focusing on “New American” companies, world-class enterprises that were founded here by immigrants or their children. All of these companies are household names, and all of them are pillars of the Fortune 500: General Electric, Ford, Kraft, Proctor & Gamble, Mattel, Heinz, UPS, Boeing, and Disney, not to mention high-tech giants like Google, Intel, eBay, Yahoo!, Sun, and Qualcomm. (See The ‘New American’ Fortune 500, Partnership for a New American Economy, June 2011.)

The PNAE report contends that immigrants drive our economy because they are risk-takers by nature – fearless entrepreneurial types who put everything on the line to start a new life in a new land, where nothing was guaranteed, ultimately prevailing on the strength of their wits and their uncompromising work ethic. America has historically been a “magnet for talent,” the report says, and needs to remain so. It points to immigrant success stories that show why America became known as the “land of opportunity.”

•    Scottish immigrant Andrew Carnegie, born in a tiny cottage to impoverished parents, who became a steel magnate and important philanthropist
•    German immigrant Levi Strauss, who created an American icon, sought after the world over: blue jeans
•    Estee Lauder, daughter of Czech and Hungarian parents who ran a hardware store in Queens, grew up to found a multi-billion dollar cosmetics empire
•    Sergey Brin, a Russian immigrant who co-founded Google, a giant of the internet age

We cannot take it for granted that America will always be the magnet for talent that it’s been in the past. There are danger signs, PNAE argues, because “countries that compete with the U.S. for foreign talent have adopted strong policies to draw the ambitious and highly skilled into their economies,” while American immigration policies slide further and further into anachronism. According to PNAE:

“Attracting the entrepreneurs who will start tomorrow’s Fortune 500 companies will require serious efforts by the U.S. government. Above all, it will require reforming the current immigration laws that erect senseless and arbitrary barriers in the face of the job-creators we should most want to recruit.”

The report concludes by underscoring the urgency of these reforms:

“To compete, we must modernize our own immigration system so that it welcomes, rather than discourages, the Fortune 500 entrepreneurs of the 21st century global economy. We must create a visa designed to draw aspiring entrepreneurs to build new businesses and create jobs here. We must give existing American companies access to hire and keep the highly skilled workers from around the world whom they need to compete. And we must stem the loss of highly skilled foreign students trained in our universities, allowing them to stay and contribute to our economy the talent in which we’ve invested. Without these kinds of smart changes to our immigration laws, America risks losing its place as the natural home for the world’s business powerhouses – the Fortune 500 companies of the future.”

The report makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in American business and entrepreneurship, and the role of immigration in building the U.S. economy. If you only have a few minutes to spare, check out the Executive Summary, then turn to the appendix, which includes a roster of Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants and their children. It is truly impressive, and gives a strong sense of how much our economy owes to the talents and entrepreneurial drive of new Americans!

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.