Study: Over 13,000 immigrants in Wisconsin are entrepreneurs

As a little girl in Mexico, Armida Ramos remembers spending many days in her mother’s restaurant.

“I always used to be helping my mom, so in the future I wanted to have my own business,” she said.

She moved to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 14, and brought her entrepreneurial instincts with her. The result is La Michoacana Homemade Ice Cream, now with two locations in Madison — 6712 Odana Rd and 4512 E. Washington Ave.

She started the Mexican-style ice cream business “from scratch” with her sister, Liliana Valerio, a difficult process at times for an immigrant. The effort paid off and today, her customer base is as diverse as the 30 flavors she offers, including pine nut, corn queso, tequila and a variety of fruits.

“We have a mix, we have everybody,” she said. “Chinese people, they love the coconut, the mango. They love it because there are some flavors they use in their country.”

Ramos is bringing more than fresh dairy flavors to Wisconsin; she’s adding dollars to the economy. She, along with 13,000 other immigrant entrepreneurs in Wisconsin, positively impact the economy, according to a report released Tuesday by the Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE).

The data looks at immigrants’ economic impact, broken up by congressional district, and includes both legal and undocumented immigrants. It concludes that immigrants make up an economic boon, filling holes in the workforce, although some dispute this claim.

PNAE is an advocacy group dedicated to studying how immigrants affect the American economy. The study started over a year ago, with the 2016 presidential election on the horizon.

“Immigration was, if not the top, one of the top issues in the campaign,” said Jeremy Robbins, executive director of PNAE. “We knew it would be relevant whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton won.”

The study aims to localize economic data, which Robbins said shows that innovation is hugely beneficial to economies all over the country.

By LISA SPECKHARD for The Capital Times
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