Great Lakes Geek Book Review

Immigrant, Inc.
Why Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Driving the New Economy (and how they will save the American worker
by Richard Herman & Robert Smith

I have a confession to make. I neglected to actually read Immigrant, Inc.: Why Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Driving the New Economy (and how they will save the American worker) for several months.

Why? Well, I thought I was pretty much an expert in the whole "immigration" arena. I've witnessed the amazing immigrant success stories in the tech world (Intel, Google, Yahoo, SUN, eBay, etc.) and have been involved with what has become known as the Welcome Center project in Cleveland for many years.

In addition, I know the two authors and have heard them speak and read their articles and blog posts. So reading the book seemed like a case of preaching to the choir. Then I finally got around to starting it and soon was pulled in to read every single word.

This is a vitally important book. The problems, challenges and opportunities it explores will affect you - even if you think your business, (or industry, city, whatever) is immune from the topic.

Don't be afraid that it will consist of graphs and statistics that will put you to sleep. Actually, there are many intriguing stories about entrepreneurs and others that make it very readable. Herman and Smith did a terrific job in making it a book you will keep reading.

The confusion over immigration is, of course, because of the illegal immigration issue. This book focuses on the legal immigrant and the issues surrounding him or her. The statistics are eye-opening.

  • Immigrant founders are behind over of the high tech startups in Silicon Valley
  • Today's immigrants are nearly twice as likely to launch a business as natives
  • Today's immigrants are more likely to earn advanced degrees than natives.
  • Today's immigrants are more likely to invent something and earn a patent as natives.
  • And on and on.

Why? Herman and Smith stress the culture that grew these immigrants. A culture with strong families, a focus on education, ambition, thrift and other traditionally entrepreneurial characteristics. Plus, it is often the cream of the crop who immigrates to the US looking for opportunity.

It is disheartening to see the difficulty that these talented people have in coming to and staying in the US. Antiquated laws and quotas need to be changed. For example, the 1965 immigration law set a 7% quota for every nation. So a tiny nation like Malawi with 10.5 million people is allocated the same number (5600 per year) of employment visas as India with a population of over 1 billion.

The H-1B visas were supposed to help this misallocation but the limits and other regulations make it a poor option. Other countries (Canada, China, etc) are making it as easy as possible to attract these highly skilled and talented people while the US makes it very difficult. As Herman and Smith demonstrate, we need these skilled people to compete with the other nations.

You will enjoy, and be inspired by, the stories of successful immigrants such as Desh Deshpande, Monte Ahuja and Jason Lin. You will be made uneasy by the negative prospects for our country if we are not more welcoming to talented immigrants. Hopefully you will be inspired to become involved with current efforts in Philadelphia, Cleveland and other cities to change the status quo.

Don't be confused by the videos of Mexicans climbing over a fence. That is not the issue tackled in this book. Don't be afraid that an immigrant worker will take your job. The research and reporting in this book will show you how the immigrants may not only save your existing job but help you get a better one.

Don't make the mistake that I did and relegate this book to the a "I'll get to it someday" pile." It's timely and important. Read it now.

Great Lakes Geek Rating: 4 out of 5 pocket protectors.

Reviewed by Entreprenerd Dan Hanson, the Great Lakes Geek

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Plain Dealer Reporter Robert Smith co-authored the book Immigrant Inc. with Richard Herman. At their book launch party, Smith read a brief excerpt from the book about immigrant Monte Ahuja who came to the US with nothing and became a multi-millionaire businessman

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