Plaza Voices: The Fortune 200

Did you know that immigrants and their children founded 43% of the 2017 Fortune 500 companies? Nearly half of the 500 most valuable businesses in our country were founded or co-founded by first- or second-generation immigrants. 

A recent report by the Center for American Entrepreneurship highlights the contributions of immigrant entrepreneurs past and present. The Brookings Institution notes that these companies generated $5.3 trillion dollars in global revenue last year and employed over 12 million people globally.

And we're not talking ancient history here. Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Steve Jobs are all on the list. A recent Forbes article tells the story of John Tu, an immigrant from China who came to the U.S. through family ("chain") migration. Tu's first business was a gift shop in Arizona. His latest business, Kingston Technologies, is "the world's largest independent manufacturer of memory products." When he and his partner sold a portion of the business in 1996, they used $100 million in profits to give huge bonuses to their U.S. employees. Not surprisingly, they made Fortune's list of best companies to work for in America.

Three of the ten Fortune 500 companies located here in Colorado were founded by immigrants: Ball, Level 3 Communications (now Centurylink), and CH2M Hill. Their combined revenue? Over $22 billion dollars. And it's not just big business: there are over 35,000 immigrant business owners in Colorado, 10% of all self-employed residents, who generated $826 million in income in 2015. In the Denver metro area, immigrants make up nearly 14% of business owners--though they are only about 16% of the population.

About 1 in 9 workers in Colorado is an immigrant, and they pay $2.3 billion in Federal taxes and $1 billion in state and local taxes. They also have a significant economic impact, supporting other local businesses and creating jobs; the Denver Business Journal reports that immigrants in Denver have nearly $7 billion dollars in spending power. 

Want to learn more? Check out our business resources, where you can find recent articles about immigrant entrepreneurs and the effects of immigration policy on business. To read more about immigration and local economies, the books Village of Immigrants and A Nation of Nations each look at how immigrants contribute to their communities in the U.S.

Do you have an immigrant entrepreneur in your family? Tell us about it in the comments!

Plazas are an open community space where immigrants from all over the world connect with people, information, and resources, building Denver’s global community. Come to practice a language, prepare for citizenship, pursue your goals, and create your future. Whatever you’re doing, we can help! Please see our events calendar for more information.


Written by Amma R. on February 21, 2018


carolyna on February 25, 2018


Wow, cool facts, thanks for sharing!

Lisa D on February 25, 2018


Thanks for sharing the facts about the very tangible ways in which immigrants improve life for everyone.


Wow, this is great! It's pretty staggering and inspiring to see all of this information in one place.


Thank you to everyone who follows the Plaza Voices blog! It is wonderful to be able to share our stories and our research with you.