Report says Mass. Brazilians lead nation
Brazilians in Massachusetts own more than 1,000 businesses, the highest proportion in the nation, a soon-to-be released report says.
The research, which will be published by the Mauricio Gaston Institute for Latino Community Development & Public Policy at UMass-Boston, provides for the first time hard numbers on the economic contributions of Brazilians in Massachusetts.
Brazilian businesses in Massachusetts account for annual sales of $272 million, the report says, and they contribute nearly $179 million to the regional economy and $12.8 million in state and federal taxes.
The report also found Brazilian residents contribute more than $1 billion to the regional economy in their annual spending, and more than $295 million in state and federal taxes.
The report's co-authors, Alvaro Lima, director of research for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and Carlos Eduardo Siqueira, a professor at UMass-Lowell's Department of Work Environment, are both Brazilians and wanted to research the impact of Brazilians on the state's economy. The report's findings shed positive light on Brazilians in Massachusetts.
"Brazilians are working, producing, selling and having a huge impact on the economy of the state," said Lima. "These are not folks who live on welfare. They send money to Brazil but they also help the economy here."
Why Massachusetts, of all states, has the country's largest number of Brazilian-owned businesses, is due to a combination of factors, said Lima. Most Brazilians who have settled here have a high educational level, have money and hail from a culture of self-employment in their home cities.
Lindamar Martins and her husband Francisco, who opened a clothing and perfume shop in downtown Framingham three weeks ago, can attest to that. The Martinses owned a clothing company in their hometown in Goias state, and a few years after they came here, they opened a small clothing shop in Leominster and bought another one in Somerville.
They started small by selling 36 pairs of jeans and two dozen pieces of lingerie, Lindamar said. Now, the couple owns three shops and is the New England distributor of "O Boticario," a Brazilian perfumery and cosmetics franchise. Their success is the result of hard work, their previous business experience and the opportunities they found here, she said.
"There are many opportunities to succeed here," said Martins. "Three people who worked for me have opened stores of their own."
One of them is Lucimar Guimaraes, who opened a clothing shop in the Arcade Building in downtown Framingham two years ago. Guimaraes and her husband also ran a clothing shop back home in Brazil but during their first five years here, they worked at a coffee shop in Wayland. They're happier now that they're entrepreneurs.
"We like to work hard," said Guimaraes. "I'm going to run my store until God allows me."
The report says Metrowest is home to 12,000 Brazilians, with the majority living in Marlborough, Framingham and Milford. After the Boston area and the North Shore, MetroWest is Brazilians' second favorite region. The South Shore, Cape Cod and the islands as a region ranks third.
Whether the numbers of Brazilians going back home would have an impact on the state's economy is something Lima doesn't know. It's too early to talk about an exodus, he said, and the effects will be felt in the years to come. Of the three regions in Massachusetts where Brazilians have settled, MetroWest is a magnet for recent arrivals. Only 11 percent of MetroWest Brazilians are U.S. citizens, according to the study.
MetroWest Chamber of Commerce president Ted Welte welcomed the report for coming up with numbers that explain the economic role of Brazilians, but wonders whether they're still accurate after the reports of hundreds of Brazilians returning home.
"If you did a study today, I wonder how much erosion in those figures one can find," he said. "The customers that provided the base for many Brazilian businesses seem to be gradually disappearing."
Still, for advocates the report's findings are good news to the local Brazilian community, which, they said, has felt besieged by anti-immigrant sentiment over the past year.
To spread the good news, Pablo Melo, co-founder of a Brazilian newspaper based in New Jersey, organized a business networking breakfast in Framingham a few weeks ago and invited Lima.
"We wanted to educate people," said Melo. "There are maybe Brazilians doing bad things, but there are many more doing good things, helping the economy and making contributions to the society."
For the report, the authors used data from Census 2000, the 2005 and 2006 American Community Survey and a survey among 250 Brazilians in Massachusetts conducted by Lima. To come up with hard data, Lima used a model called REMI, which stands for Regional Economic Models Inc.,
Lima, who published a report on "Brazilian Immigrants in Boston" for the city of Boston's New Bostonian Series this past summer, relished his findings.
"The report paints a positive picture," he said. "Most Brazilians are amazed when they realize how important they are for the state's economy."
Liz Mineo can be reached at 508-626-3825 or email@example.com.