June 2015

This report examines how the growing immigrant population in North Carolina has contributed to the economic vitality of the state and highlights common-sense steps that can help immigrants to become fully integrated into the North Carolina community.

Key results on the economic importance of immigrants include:

  • New immigrant gateway: Immigrants make up a large share of the population growth in North Carolina over the last two decades. This is true across the state, in urban and rural communities alike.
  • Outsized economic impact: Immigrants in North Carolina generate a larger share of the state’s economic activity than their share of the population.
  • Active entrepreneurs: More than 20% of Main Street business owners are immigrants today. Immigrants account for more than 80% of the new Main Street business owners since 2000.
  • Community economic development: On average, counties with large immigrant populations have lower unemployment rates, lower levels of poverty, and higher wages than counties with few immigrants.

Key challenges that immigrant entrepreneurs face include:

  • Access to business capital: Immigrants often find it particularly hard to access start-up and operating business capital. This may force immigrants to rely on limited savings and may prevent immigrant-owned establishments from reaching their full economic potential.
  • Business planning and management: Many immigrants lack formal business training, which can hamper their ability to start and sustain new ventures.
  • Integration into mainstream business networks: While many immigrant entrepreneurs start out by serving the needs of other immigrants, reaching their full economic potential requires engaging broader clientele and supply chains.

Important steps that can help immigrants to fully integrate into the economic and social life of North Carolina include:

  • State-level: Official identification, in-state tuition, and targeted support and financing for immigrant entrepreneurs.
  • Community-level: Bi-lingual public services, access to English language training, assistance with professional certification and credentialing, membership on boards and commissions, offices dedicated to addressing specific needs of immigrant residents, networking with community and business organizations, and access to financial services.