Making Cedar Rapids More Attractive To International Talent Expands Economic Opportunity for All

Sep 18, 2020

According to research data provided by the National American Economy ( NAE), immigrants in Linn County are 45.2% more likely to be entrepreneurs than their U.S. -born counterparts, and more than 10% of immigrants are working for themselves. The majority of immigrant owned businesses that were interviewed through the Gateways for Growth effort last year expressed that they were not aware of or had not accessed the wide range of business development services offered in Cedar Rapids. In part, this was due to a lack of outreach and awareness. The Economic Alliance has since been working with key immigrant advocates and influencers helping with the promotion of these services in our community.

As part of the continued immigration and entrepreneurship efforts, the Economic Alliance has supported the promotion of immigrant entrepreneur growth through sponsorship of NewBoCo’s ‘EntreFEST’ event, which features a diversity track for immigrant entrepreneurs and attendees of diverse backgrounds. The Economic Alliance has also helped support immigrant entrepreneur participation in the regional Immigrant Entrepreneurial Summit (IES) with free sponsored entry tickets. The summit was held virtually this year due to COVID-19. Since 2008, the summit has worked to bring businesses and individuals of diverse backgrounds together to share, learn, and celebrate the immigrant entrepreneurship experiences and contribution to their communities. Over the 12 years of IES, it has helped with the formation of 1,415 new companies and 7,415 new jobs. At this year’s event, the Regional IES Immigrant Spirit Award was given to Ritu Jain, an Iowa City native who immigrated from India at age 4. Ritu owns and operates a fabric store called Textiles since 1991, and gives back to the community through numerous civic leadership and philanthropic endeavors.

To promote and support immigrant resources, the Economic Alliance is proud to partner with key organizations including the City of Cedar Rapids, Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, Coe College, Catherine McAuley Center, Hands Up Communications, United Way of East Central Iowa, Kirkwood Community College, HACAP, Jane Boyd, and YPN in collaboration for Welcoming Week Cedar Rapids in 2020. Beginning September 12-20, a social media campaign will promote resources and services that bring together immigrants, refugees, and long-time residents to build strong connections and inclusiveness in our community.

Register to participate in the panel discussion as part of Welcoming Week, “Welcoming Immigrants Into Your Workforce” and find more resources and information at

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