The main reason more Utah and American economic growth isn’t occurring is the nation’s broken immigration system.
An estimated 250,000 immigrants living in Utah “serve as everything from livestock workers to entrepreneurs, making critical contributions to Utah’s economic success overall,” concludes a new report by the Partnership for a New American Economy. The New York-based organization, which brings together business, civic and cultural leaders to urge Congress to take action of immigration reform, released 50 state-level reports.
From more than $5 billion a year in earnings, to contributing 1 in 13 tax dollars paid by Utah residents, immigrants play a key role as Utah taxpayers and consumers, the Partnership states. More than 13,000 immigrants in Utah are self-employed. Businesses owned by immigrants generated more than $248 million in income and employed more than 31,000 people in the Beehive State in 2014.
“Foreign-born entrepreneurs are also behind 51 percent of our country’s billion-dollar startups. More than 40 percent of the Fortune 500 firms have at least one founder who was an immigrant or the children of immigrants,” the report notes. The state’s foreign-born population nearly doubled between 1990 and 2010. Utah saw its foreign-born population swell by 9 percent, a far greater rate than the number of foreign-born residents increased nationwide,” according to the report.
Immigrant workers currently make up 11.1 percent of all entrepreneurs in the state, despite being just 8.6 percent of Utah’s population, the report says. Jorge Fierro, pictured above, is one of them. He is a Salt Laker, founder and CEO of Rico Brands, a Mexican foods company with more than $3 million in revenues. Fierro, now a naturalized U.S. citizen, supports immigration reform and believes the American economy demands more labor and demands more people.
Fierro is a graduate of Horizonte, Salt Lake City School District’s alternative high school and adult education center. He encourages Horizonte students to graduate from high school and qualify for Horizonte’s privately funded applied tech and college scholarship program.