November 12, 2018
From the editor

The importance of immigrants

In 2015, WBJ published a recurring feature call Incorporations, which is a listing of all the entrepreneurs who file papers with the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth to create a new business in our region (Incorporations is still available via subscription). During my first few weeks as editor back then, Publisher Peter Stanton pointed out it seemed two out of every three entrepreneurs in Incorporations appeared to have first and last names indicating there was a good chance they were born in a foreign country. We theorized the majority of new businesses were being founded immigrants or first-generation Americans.

Fast forward a year to WBJ's 2016 40 Under Forty awards. Three of the first four winners we featured were born outside the United States: Albania, Laos and Ireland. We actually had two winners native to Albania that year, and the following two years had honorees from places like Ghana, Brazil, Hungary, England, Kenya and Nicaragua. Clearly, foreign-born entrepreneurs and young professionals are making their mark on the Central Massachusetts economy.

But we wanted to know how big that impact was. Worcester human services nonprofit Seven Hills Foundation produced a study in 2015 showing foreign-born residents in Worcester founded businesses more frequently and had higher incomes than native residents. To expand on those findings, WBJ this year partnered with our friends over at the Worcester Regional Research Bureau to learn more about the historic and modern impacts immigrants had in our city.

Thanks to WRRB's Tim McGourthy, Tom Quinn and their army of interns, we got data to answer those questions. WBJ News Editor Grant Welker then took that research to out in the community to gather immigrants' stories. Turns out, people who leave their native countries for a foreign land are intelligent risk-takers, who want to get the most out of the American dream.

One aspect of the immigration conversation Welker does not touch on is legal vs. illegal immigration. The Seven Hills report found about 14 percent of immigrants in Worcester came to the country illegally. Obviously, given today's political climate, this is a hot button issue. An online poll WBJ put up last week received multiple comments decrying illegal immigration, even though the poll wasn't about illegal immigration. But for Welker's stories, this debate is beside the point. We want to show the impact of the immigrant community in Worcester, regardless of how they got here.

- Brad Kane, editor

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