Who’s creating US jobs? Mexicans.
Fed up with violence in Mexico, entrepreneurs are moving north. That means the US is seeing the benefit from the businesses they start.
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As a third-generation jewelrymaker, opening a beading store was natural for one Mexican immigrant (who declined to give his name for security reasons). He has about 40 bead stores in Mexico now and was already employing jewelrymakers as a college student.Skip to next paragraph
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But crime pushed the enterprising Mexican here. His Mexican stores were robbed 18 times last year, he says. He’d had four robberies in all the years beforehand.
He’s opened three Beading2gos in the San Antonio area in the past two years. On a December Sunday, two bilingual employees fluttered amid a stream of clients in the make-your-own-jewelry shop.
“Ah! You guys are hiring!” says a grandmotherly woman making a tiny bracelet for a baby shower, pointing to a help wanted sign.
“Si, de veras,” the staffer responds. It’s a permanent position, says the owner, who employs about a dozen people in these shops in which he invested initially about $175,000 in stock and $45,000 in remodeling. He and the co-owner, his wife, bought a house here two months ago and plan to open a fourth store soon either in Texas or Arkansas. (Why Arkansas? “It’s lovely!” he says of Little Rock.)
He came at the invitation of the city of San Antonio, which runs an international affairs department that reaches out to potential Mexican immigrant investors.
“What we are doing is offering the American companies to find Mexicans,” says Luis Escobar, owner of EGA Direct, a private consultancy that similarly reaches out to potential immigrant investors. He moved to San Antonio after being kidnapped twice in Mexico. He estimates that 80 percent of his clients want to move for security concerns. “I have a client without a foot. I have a client without a finger. We have clients without one member of the family,” he says.
The State Department does not yet have data for how many Mexican immigrant investors came in fiscal year 2009. But recent events may have stoked the movement further: After the widely publicized 2008 “Martí case” – in which a prominent businessman’s adolescent son was kidnapped and killed, despite the family having reportedly paid millions in ransom – Mr. Escobar says online inquiries increased from eight monthly to up to 40.
Escobar says none of his clients have had their visa requests turned down, but he’s selective. He refuses to take inquires from investors in states like Sinaloa and Chihuahua. “The probability that we ... find out a wealthy person in those states [is related to the drug trade] is very high,” he says.
Bought restaurant, now expanding
Gama’s life has taken a turn for the better since leaving Mexico last summer. He plans to open another Village Gourmet this year. He’s made some updates to the place, increasing online advertising and adding a few new hamburger dishes. But the most popular dish is still chicken potpie, he says. The menu claims it sells 650 a month.
In the airy restaurant wedged in a sprawling stuccoed shopping center next to a Walgreens pharmacy and within walking distance of Barbara Bush Middle School, son Emilio plays on his lap and asks for his mom. Gama explains that his wife hasn’t come yet. Her common name was too similar to others with criminal backgrounds, delaying her visa. She was still living in Mexico City in December.
They’re renting an apartment now in San Antonio. Does he want to bide his time until he can return safely to Mexico or stay in Texas? “Yes, yes,” he answers to the second.
“Little by little, the idea is that we’re going to sell what we have there, the properties we have,” Gama says in Spanish. “And little by little, make this change.”