Entrepreneur George Pan, who translated success with his mobile Foo Truck into brick and mortar restaurant Foo Kitchen

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Why has the City of Philadelphia declared March 27 through April 1 to be “Immigrant Business Week”? The ostensible answer is simple: Every week is immigrant business week in Philly.

The influx of foreign-born people over the last five years has been a boon for the city’s population, meaning tax coffers are filling up far more than if the population were falling. In 2014, immigrants in Philadelphia paid $6 billion in total taxes and held more than twice that in spending power. Plus, Philly immigrants are 43 percent more likely to start a business than their native-born counterparts, the city says. That’s actually lower than the national average — twice as likely is the usual stat cited — but still a big difference. Right now, Philadelphia is home to more than 40,000 immigrant entrepreneurs.

But there’s another reason for the city to formally celebrate Immigrant Business Week right now, although it goes unstated. Like the grassroots “Day Without Immigrants,” it highlights immigrants’ positive impact on society in the face of Trump administration policies that demonize them.

The city’s effort is part of a national campaign spearheaded by a coalition called the New American Economy. The group, which was founded by Fox News scion Rupert Murdoch and former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg and counts former Philly mayor Michael Nutter as a board member, is not political — its board overall is bipartisan — but its platform does have several planks that stand in strict opposition with Trump admin dogma.

On undocumented immigrants, for example, the NAE promotes the concept that everyone currently in the US should have a path to legal status — quite a difference from Trump’s position that they all should be deported immediately. The NAE also supports increasing opportunities for immigrants to enter the US workforce, in contrast to Trump travel bans and other visa restrictions that make it harder for this to happen.

So for Immigrant Business Week in Philly, the city has organized a series of events to recognize the contributions of the immigrant community here and provide resources for local immigrant business owners. These range from a discussion on how the Chamber of Commerce can help foreign-born entrepreneurs to a workshop on legal issues that business owners should be familiar with (see below for details).

It’s also shining a spotlight on five food trucks — Chez Yasmine, El Sarape, Phoebe’s BBQ, Delicias and Foo Truck — to showcase the variety of cuisines immigrants have brought to Philadelphia. There’s not really a formal plan involving the mobile vendors, it seems, but you’re invited to visit them throughout the week. Since they all provide delicious food, it’s a good enough excuse as any.

Immigrant Business Week events:

Launch ceremony

Mayor Kenney will kick off the week along with representatives from the Commerce Department, the Office of Immigrant Affairs and NAE.
2:30-4:30 p.m. Monday, March 27, City Hall Conversation Hall (Room 202)

Chamber of Commerce panel

Established local immigrant business owners and city officials will discuss lessons learned and try to figure out ways the Chamber can support and create more opportunity for immigrant entrepreneurship. RSVP here.
5-7 p.m. Monday, March 27, Fleisher Art Memorial (719 Catharine St.)

Free bilingual business consulting

Experts from the Philly chapter of national nonprofit SCORE will hold free mentoring and guidance sessions to offer advice on how to develop and refine business plans. RSVP to justine.bolkus@phila.gov or phone (215-683-2155).
10 a.m.-12 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, Mayfair CDC (2990 St. Vincent St.)

Career advancement for foreign-educated immigrants

Mayor Kenney and CCP President Donald Guy Generals will speak at an event held in collaboration with the Welcoming Center to provide information and resources to help skilled immigrants who’ve already completed school abroad. Pathways outlined will include further education, professional licensing, certification and more. RSVP to institute@ccp.edu.
5:30-8 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, Community College of Philadelphia, Winnet Student Life Building, Great Hall (1700 Spring Garden St., Room S2-19)

Should you form a corporation?

A business lawyer will provide a breakdown of the various corporate entities entrepreneurs can choose from, and outline the benefits of forming a corporation — as well as explain when it might not be. RSVP to trainingsupport@worc-pa.com or phone (215-564-5500).
9-11 a.m. Thursday, March 30, Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians (1617 JFK Blvd., Suite 555)

Chat over coffee about how to start your own biz

Reps from the Philadelphia Department of Commerce, the Office of Business Services and the Community College of Philadelphia will be on hand to offer tips about how to obtain loans and power up a small business. RSVP to samuel.chueh@phila.gov or phone (215-683-2014)
10 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday, March 30, Maria’s Restaurant (4058 N. 5th St.)

Simple steps to grow your business

The African Cultural Alliance of North America has teamed with the Women’s Opportunity Resource Center for to provide helpful tips and advice about how to make your business more successful once you’ve started it. RSVP to trainingsupport@worc-pa.com or call (215-564-5500).
10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, April 1, ACANA (5530 Chester Ave.)

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Danya Henninger

Danya Henninger is director of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the...