On Monday I rattled on so long about the cultural value that international students, faculty and business people contribute to the Kent lifestyle that I ran out of gas before I got a chance to throw in my two cents on the economic value of those foreign born folks that call Kent home. So I’d like to return to the topic of the current wave of immigration and the rather significant role it plays in our economic recovery.
The Kent State strategic planning summit focused more on the higher morale purpose of engaging international students in education and life long learning so we didn’t really dig too deeply into the economics but as much as I like group hugs, at the end of the day we still have to pay the bills and that leads us into a more practical discussion of what’s in it for us economically? It turns out quite a lot actually.
I didn’t necessarily know all this heading into the Kent State meeting but I figured if I’m going to speak to a room full of academics I better do my homework and that’s when I discovered what an economic engine our foreign born neighbors have turned out to be. Let’s look at the numbers.
1. Economists predict that in the next decade 70% of our economic growth will come from small business entrepreneurs.
2. The rate of entrepreneurship among immigrants living in the US is double the rate of native born entrepreneurship — 5 out of 1,000 vs. 2 out of 1,000.
3. Economists predict that as manufacturing and labor intensive industries move off-shore the US economy will increasingly depend on high tech and scientific discovery.
4. Immigrants represent only 10% of the total US workforce but they represent 25% of scientists and engineers, and 50% of the PhD’s in the US workforce.
5. A reported 50% of the Silicon Valley Tech companies were founded by someone born outside of the US — by comparison 14% of Ohio companies were founded by an immigrant.
6. The rate of patent filings from foreign born is double the rate of patents filed by native born in the US.
7. Every year since 1980 immigrants have been more likely to be self employed entrepreneurs than native born US residents.
8. Since 1995 1 out of 4 US venture-backed start up company was founded by an immigrant.
9. Researchers report that the annual economic impact that international students bring to the US each year is greater than $15 billion — they list Kent State international students as injecting $17 million to our region’s economy.
10. The greatest immigrant economic contributors are reported to come from Syria, Iran, Greece, Korea, Israel, Lebanon and Turkey.
11. Approximately 5% of the population in Northeast Ohio has advanced degrees.
12. A reported 62% of foreign students that obtain their PhD’s here stay here to begin their business careers — 9 out of 10 Chinese doctoral students stay in the US, 8 out of 10 Indian students and 7.7 out of 10 Russian born students also stay in the US.
With shining stars like Alpha Micron and Kent Displays in our backyard we’ve touted high tech entrepreneurship as the economic niche that is in Kent’s wheelhouse and a walk through each of these companies is like a walk through Kent State’s international student hall of fame. These small companies are growing fast and they’re full of foreign born graduates of Kent State from all over the world that now call Kent home.
So the formula works — grab an emerging technology, hire a bunch of smart people from around the globe, think big, start small, test your business plan, commercialize, and then scale like crazy. That life cycle usually takes a good 10 to 15 years and we know that Kent — thanks to our close proximity to the University and the cultural mix that comes with it — is ideally suited to serve that business niche. And if that business niche is predicted to be the centerpiece of economic recovery we’re more than happy to be help fulfill that promise.