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Report shows 20 percent of Michigan's "Main Street" businesses are owned by immigrants

Clare, Michigan is one of four communities chosen to receive downtown rebranding
Michigan Main Street Center
Clare, Michigan is one of four communities chosen to receive downtown rebranding

A report out Thursday morning from the Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP) finds that while immigrant make up only 6% of Michigan’s population, they make up 20% of the state’s so-called Main Street businesses.

Victoria Crouse, a State Policy Fellow for the MLPP, authored the report. She obtained most of her data from the American Community Survey’s 5-year data from 2016.

Crouse characterizes the definition of a “Main Street business” as being “small-scale, less capital-intensive, and more locally-oriented.” Most tend to provide retail, food, and neighborhood services. Immigrant ownership is most common in restaurant/food, construction, and physician office services. The most common county of birth for these Michigan business owners is Iraq, followed by India.

The data finds that immigrant business owners bring in over 12% — about $1.3 billion — of total business earnings in the state. But Crouse points out that the value of these businesses goes beyond those numbers.

“Aside from how much they're generating in earnings, they are helping to supply jobs in communities,” she says. “They're helping to revitalize places that have been in decline, and they're helping to meet those essential needs among local communities.”

The report says that Detroit is "one of 31 metro areas across the country in which immigrants make up all growth in Main Street business ownership.” Crouse also says that she talked with several immigrant business owners in Grand Rapids who say their businesses can become places where immigrants can connect with each other and form community bonds.  

“I really hope that this report helps to highlight something that's often overlooked, that immigrants are anchors in our communities,” Crouse says. “As community members, as workers, as entrepreneurs, they're contributing a lot.”

The report recommends that the state should increase access to financing, business planning, and State IDs in order to support immigrant business owners. It also advocates for more resources to be made available in languages other than English.