Asian Small Businesses Grow in NYC

At Dec. 6 small business conference held by the Asian American Federation, Ikhwan Rim, left, president of the Flushing Union Street Small Business Association speaks. (Photo via Korea Daily)

At a small business conference held by the Asian American Federation on Dec. 6, Ikhwan Rim, left, president of the Union Street Small Business Association in Flushing, speaks. (Photo via Korea Daily)

Asian-owned small businesses in New York City are one of the city’s important economic engines, according to a new report by the Asian American Federation, or AAF. The number of these businesses has grown and created more jobs for unskilled immigrants whose language barrier often hinders them from getting a professional job.

Between 2002 and 2012, the number of Asian-owned businesses in NYC grew to approximately 193,700, an increase of more than 81,300, or 72 percent.

The report took a broad look at the contributions of NYC Asian-owned businesses and challenges they face, examining subjects from Asian-concentrated industries to workers’ income and immigration status, to recommendations to improve the ecosystem of these businesses. The AAF presented the report during a half-day long Asian small business conference held at New York University’s Kimmel Center on Dec. 6. [This is the first release of such a study by the AAF. The AAF partnered with Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles to do a national economic report on Asian small businesses in 2014.]

Howard Shih, research and policy director at the AAF who led the report, said that Asian-owned businesses contribute to the NYC economy growth and provide jobs for new immigrants, covering diverse industries from restaurants, taxi drivers, and personal care services. Asian-owned businesses also grew faster than the overall number of business from 2002 to 2012. In addition, from 2007 to 2012, Asian-owned businesses gained in economic activity and payroll while the city saw overall declines, which was why these businesses were better able to withstand the impact of the 2008 financial crisis, according to the report.

The share of Asian-owned businesses in NYC jumped to 18 percent in 2012 from 14 percent in 2002. Among all Asian-owned businesses, Chinese-owned businesses accounted for almost half, 46 percent, followed by Indian (21 percent), Korean (11 percent), Japanese and Filipino (4 percent each).

Also, the number of self-employed Asians in NYC grew by 41 percent between 2000 and 2014, and most of them were in the taxi & limousine and construction businesses. Shih explained that many Asians seem to choose self-employment because they are excluded from the mainstream job market due to language skills or immigration status. More than half, 54 percent, of self-employed Asians had limited English proficiency and were more likely to be non-citizens. Pakistanis were the Asian group most likely to be self-employed, followed by Koreans, Japanese and Bangladeshis, the report found.

Chinese and Korean small business owners followed a similar path in that their most common enterprises are dry cleaning and laundry services, followed by nail salons. Among Koreans, specialty food stores are also common.

Almost half, 47 percent, of all Asian-owned businesses were concentrated in Queens in 2012. About a quarter of these businesses were in Brooklyn, and 21 percent in Manhattan. The number of Asian-owned businesses in Queens almost doubled, an increase by 90 percent, while those in Manhattan increased by 40 percent between 2002 and 2012.

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