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Business/Economy

Seeking Opportunities, Newcomers Make North Texas The Fastest Growing Metro Area For Immigrants

Howard Dong stands behind the food counter inside a new Asian cuisine restaurant he opened in Plano in June 2021.
Stella M. Chávez
/
KERA News
Howard Dong, 36, is co-owner of Yummy House, a new restaurant in Plano that serves Chinese and Japanese cuisines.

From 2018 to 2019, more than 48,000 new immigrants moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, according to a new analysis of Census data by the group New American Economy.

Tracy Liu and Howard Dong moved to North Texas last year after living in Arkansas for a decade. The couple, who is originally from China, said they moved here for the opportunities.

Last month, they opened a restaurant in Plano that serves Chinese and Japanese dishes.

“You know when you have kids, you just want to think about more. You want to think about kids’ education,” Liu, who has two daughters, said. “So I [thought], ‘we should move to a bigger city. It’s time to change.’”

According to a new report by the self-described bipartisan think tank New American Economy, the couple is representative of many immigrants who’ve recently moved to the area. The report, which uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey, found that the Dallas-Fort Worth is the fastest growing metro area in the country for immigrants. In just one year, from 2018 to 2019, more than 48,000 new immigrants moved here.

The report includes an interactive map that shows the economic contributions by immigrants in the country’s 100 largest metro areas.

“It's a good sign because it means there's opportunity there and it's a good sign because when people come, they create opportunity,” New American Economy executive director Jeremy Robbins said. “They start businesses, they spend money, they buy homes. They do things that generate growth.”

Outdoor photo of a new restaurant in Plano called Yummy House.
Stella M. Chávez / KERA News
Yummy House opened for business in Plano in June.

Robbins said this trend is particularly important as the economy recovers from a recession and the pandemic’s economic shock.

He said communities that recovered the strongest and fastest after the 2008 financial crisis were the ones that could fill available jobs.

"Those jobs that are associated with growth. Right?” Robbins said. “You want entrepreneurs. You want people to be able to make your construction boom happen, so that the other industries that depend on construction can go back. You want tourism and hospitality, so you can bring people into your community."

Also worth noting, Robbins said, immigrants who've moved to North Texas are 25% more likely than U.S.-born residents to start a business. In 2019, the Dallas-Fort Worth area had 104,341 immigrant entrepreneurs.

Liu and Dong said opening a restaurant wasn’t their first choice. They operated a Chinese restaurant in Arkansas and wanted to try something different here — but Liu said they realized this is something they’re good at.

Her advice for other newcomers who want to start a business? Find a job first.

“Don’t think of a job as good job or bad job," she said. "Just find a job, pay the cost of living. Try to save some money and then you have the choice to start your own thing.”

Got a tip? Email Stella M. Chávez at schavez@kera.org. You can follow Stella on Twitter @stellamchavez.

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