The proposed research takes a mixed embeddedness approach to immigrant entrepreneurship that considers both supply side (immigrant entrepreneurs[IEs] themselves) and demand side (opportunity structures or context that influences IE decisions), including the influences of policies, markets, networks and more. As noted by Kloosterman and Rath (2001:10), “IE’s make use of, negotiate and, to a lesser extent, create openings to start a business. These openings are not everywhere the same: they are contingent on the wider socio-economic context.” It will also consider levels of analysis, with the provincial level of analysis held constant (as study will be entirely within Ontario) allowing for fuller focus on importance of regional and municipal/rural levels of analysis. The research will have three components:


1. Foundational Data (context)

  1. Review of scholarly literature and research reports with key word combinations including immigrant/immigration, entrepreneur, business succession, rural, rural economic development, rural policies, small- and mid-size enterprises [SMEs];
  2. Environmental scan of business services and supports aimed at entrepreneurship and immigrant entrepreneurship, including information sector (i.e. ethnic associations, faith communities);
  3. Analysis of various datasets for research area, including 2011 Census data (immigrant status, mobility status, level of education, etc.), CIC landing data, possibly Longitudinal Administrative Databank and Longitudinal Immigration Database.


2. Living Data (socio-economic objectives)

a.  Interviews, surveys, and community asset mapping with Regional Collaboration Teams (RCT) including:

Training Boards, Research, Innovation & Commercialization (RIC) Centres, settlement agencies, municipal Economic Development Departments, Small Business Enterprise Centres, and members of the private sector. Interviews will also be used to follow up on leads identified in the Environmental Scan.

Sample interview questions:

What programs and services do you offer to immigrants as well as the general public?

Who are the IE clients, including gender mix?

What kinds of businesses do IEs start and how successful are they? [providers’ definition]

How do clients assess the programs and services of the Centre?

What have you been able to achieve? 

b.  Interviews with immigrant business owners to identify motivation, challenges, existing supports, gaps in service – with representation from various sectors, levels of success, and length of time in business.

Sample interview questions:

How many jobs did you have in Canada prior to starting your own business, and how many of these were in agri-food?

What drew you to this community?

How did you get your start here?

What kinds of local supports did you receive, if any, and which were most helpful?

Do you belong to any agri-food industry organizations?

Do you have plans for growing your business, and what are they?

N.B. Businesses can be started by any category of immigrant, including economic class, family class, and refugees or protected persons. The numbers of actual ‘business class’ immigrants and the ‘new’ business start-up entrepreneurs are much smaller.


3. Case Studies

To address effects of socio- and economic value-added contributions within the agri-food value chain (VC) by rural immigrant entrepreneurs, the above elements will be used in ‘real’ case studies. This research will also be informed by findings from organizations such as FarmStart, National Incubator Farm Training Initiative (NIFTI), and the Kentucky Entrepreneurial Coaches Institute (KECI), formed to address the changing economic landscape in rural Kentucky.

This case study approach will offset the limitations of location quotient and shift-share analyses and provide economic and financial analyses, and comparative analysis of agri-food value chains.

A series of case studies will examine the issue of whether or not rural IEs are profitable and provide value-added contributions to the Ontario economy, what that value might be and how contributions are achieved. The research will study the profitability and the value-added contributions of 10 rural immigrant entrepreneurs value-chains (including secondary migrants)whose business ventures are focused on ethnic crop production in 5 economic regions of the province (one control – minimal IE activity i.e. the North), each region has distinct growing micro-climate, business attributes, and policy configurations. The study will identify these producers’ business relationships and also assess, in aggregate, their profitability and value-added contributions to their respective agri-food value chain (VC).

The case study will determine if the VCs designed by these immigrant entrepreneurs provides them a competitive advantage or not, with what significance, and at what dollar value. Do IEs collaborate in SME agri-food business ventures that link producers, processors, marketers, food service companies, retailers and supporting groups such as shippers, research groups, suppliers and if so, how and with what results?

Although there is a large literature on value chains, and even on agri-food value chains, no literature was found that focused on immigrant or ethnic-based chains in particular, or on the profitability or sustainability of individual agri-food businesses owned by immigrant entrepreneurs. Yet it appears that value chains for immigrant entrepreneurs may look very different, such as by making use of ethnic networks and transnational connections.

The case studies will selectively identify the 10 agri-food value chains used by the 10 immigrant ethnic crop and/or livestock producers and then qualitatively compare each VC against industry standard Value Chain Models and Value Chain Maps (George Morris Centre 2012).

In addition, the following will be gathered and analyzed over each of the three years of all business operations within the VCs:

a.  Interviews with immigrant business owners to identify motivation, challenges, existing supports, gaps in service – with representation from various sectors, levels of success, and length of time in business (qualitative);

b.  Surveys will provide an environmental scan of business services and immigrant supports used by IEs (including the informal sector i.e. ethnic associations, faith communities (qualitative);

c.  Review of Business Plans (including Business Model) (qualitative);

d.  Analyses of firms’ (and VCs) viability using six key financial ratio assessments (3 years statements and 3 year projections) (quantitative);

e.  Analyses and audit of overall business against local, regional, provincial, national standards (economic drivers, workforce and workplace changes, competitive advantages/disadvantages, rural and business policies) (quantitative);

f.  Analysis by each partner in VC by using business analysis on-line tools to measure, track and compare their own business growth – Business Analyst On-line (BAO) (quantitative)

g. Mentoring and coaching by arms-length Regional Collaboration Team members who will support with broad range of expertise (qualitative).

Data will be collected in the field on a continuous basis. Monthly contacts will be made with each IE and VC. Evaluation and analysis of some data will be monthly, quarterly, annually, and end-of-project.


Research Tools

The team will draw on several key resources, including immigrant-specific (CIRRO and CAIN) and industry/business specific (Analyst Canada). CAIN will yield socio- and economic data; Analyst Canada will compare against agri-food VC/Cluster of the market as a whole.

a. CAIN (Community Attractiveness Indicators for Newcomers Tool) (OMAFRA Sept 2012) provides indicators chosen for relevance to newcomer attraction and retention in small town and rural contexts (data for all counties and municipalities across the province, regardless of size) to assist in regional analysis

      • indicators cover Society(6), Economy (7), Education (8), Innovation (8), Amenities (7), Health [4],       Housing [4]
      • the 2012 version will be the benchmark: the 2013 version (Sept 2013) will have most current Census updates; end-of-project ‘projections’ will be available
      • the CAIN Tool Definitions for Themes and Indicators lists all the research and database sources
      • the CAIN User Guide provides methodology behind tool

b. CIRRO (Community Immigrant Retention in Rural Ontario) (pilot 2011; launch Dec 2012) provides process guidelines for communities to develop an immigrant attraction and retention strategy and the implementation plan for that strategy. This research will base local community engagement on CIRRO models, creating open access and flow of information, after which local collaborators may adopt the CIRRO process, thereby helping to ensure sustainability of attraction and retention after project conclusion.

c. Analyst Canada will provide employment data for analysis of labour markets for both employment and self-employed markets. Analyst provides access to a more precise dataset, by combining the specificity of the Census with the current numbers of the provincial data. Datasets are updated every six months which will allow trend analysis over the duration of research.

Researchers will use this tool to obtain the following information on Ontario’s 5 economic regions:

    • obtain a sub-dataset to investigate the agri-food VCs/cluster changes and trends using industry/business benchmarks,
    • location quotient (LQ) and shift-share (SSA) analyses;
    • describe agri-food INDUSTRY EMPLOYMENT (growth/share of employment/periods of employment/SS effects/LQ or competitive effects) and BUSINESS COUNTS (growth, share of businesses/periods of employment/SS effects/LQ or competitive effects); employee and self-employed; with sectors and industry group by NAICS
    • (using SSA) account for the competitiveness of a region’s agri-food industries by providing an estimate of total local employment growth/decline (over a period of time, for given industry in a given locality compared to a larger area such as the whole nation. province, or region within a province.
    • [using LQ analysis] estimate the economic base of a locality; measure the relative concentration of a given industry in a given locality compared to a larger area such as Canada, Ontario, or a specific region within Ontario.

See Survey Results for the REAPontario survey results.