On the national level, the issue of immigration seems to be as divisive as ever. President Barack Obama is reportedly preparing to sign an executive order to protect millions of people from deportation. In response, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has warned that if the president acts unilaterally, it will “poison the well” when it comes to relations with GOP members of Congress.
Against this backdrop, the St. Louis Mosaic Project, an initiative to lure more foreign-born people to the St. Louis region, is rolling out a new program to help immigrants start small businesses. Formally launched on the same day a comprehensive immigration reform plan cleared the U.S. Senate -- which later stalled in the House -- a key premise behind the Mosaic Project is that foreign-born people start businesses at a higher rate than native-born residents.
“There are local foreign born people who are starting businesses and could benefit by the rest of the entrepreneurial engine in St. Louis,” said Betsy Cohen, who heads up the Mosaic Project.
The new entrepreneurship program has six basic components.
- An advisory board to evaluate how well Mosaic is reaching out to foreign-born entrepreneurs
- The creation of an annual entrepreneur award
- Outreach efforts to inform more immigrants about entrepreneurial programs at St. Louis County libraries
- Space for international students to work on business ideas
- Networking with immigrants and tech-related groups like the Center for Emerging Technologies, BioSTL, ITEN, T-REX and STLVentureWorks
- A part-time fellowship for an immigrant to work with local tech-upstarts
The project will focus on neighborhood businesses, an area Cohen said hasn’t received as much attention in the region’s push to develop more entrepreneurs.
“One of the things that we are developing is and we are launching is an ecosystem for immigrant entrepreneurs and potentially other people who are underserved in the community who want to start a neighborhood business,” Cohen said.