Entrepreneurship as a Component of Integration in Welcoming Cities

Places pursuing immigrant integration initiatives recognize the positive impact immigrant-owned small businesses can have in revitalizing and strengthening communities. Efforts often include supporting the sustainable development of firms, connection to capital, educating owners on U.S. business norms and laws, and fostering network-building among immigrant owners. In this session, panelists will discuss research on immigrant integration and entrepreneurship and share best practices, providing their perspectives on challenges and opportunities learned from experiences in their own communities.


  • Paul McDaniel, Research Fellow at the American Immigration Council, Washington D.C. — Paul McDaniel is the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Fellow at the American Immigration Council in Washington, D.C. Prior to his work at The Council, Paul was a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where he worked on community-based research with the Department of Family Medicine at Carolinas Medical Center, Levine Museum of the New South, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, Crossroads Charlotte, and the Latin American Coalition. His research focuses on immigrant settlement and integration in new immigrant gateways and destinations, immigrant access to education and healthcare, immigrant entrepreneurship, and community receptivity. Paul holds a Ph.D. in Geography and Urban Regional Analysis from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.


  • Linda Lopez, Chief, Office of Immigrant Affairs, Los Angeles Mayor’s Office — Dr. Linda Lopez was appointed by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as the new Chief ofthe Office of Immigrant Affairs in September of 2014. The Office serves many functions for immigrants in the city (1) coordination of city services and departments (2) convening with organizations and agencies around immigration integration issues and (3) tracking and advocating for sound immigration policies at the federal, state and local level and its implementation. Prior to her appointment by Mayor Garcetti, Dr. Lopez was an Associate Dean for Diversity and Strategic Initiatives in USC Dornsife College and formerly a Program Officer at the National Science Foundation in Washington DC. She is an expert in public policy and received her Master Degree and PhD at USC in Political Science. She has published in several peer-reviewed journals on public policy issues affecting racial and ethnic communities and voting participation. Dr. Lopez was born in Los Angles to parents who immigrated from Ecuador.
  • Isela Gracian, VP of Operations, East LA Community Corporation — A graduate of UC Davis, Isela joined ELACC in 2004 as a Program Coordinator and has served as Director of Community Organizing and Associate Director prior to her current role as Vice President of Operations. Isela directly oversees ELACC’s operations in Tenant Services, Fund Development and Communications, Community Organizing, and office administration. She manages and facilitates the organization’s strategic and operational planning efforts. She provides strategic policy making support to the Community Organizing Department’s numerous campaigns, coalition-building and leadership development efforts.
  • Suhas Kulkarni, Director, Louisville Mayor’s Office of Globalization, including RISE (Refugees and Immigrants Succeeding in Entrepreneurship) — Suhas Kulkarni is Mayor Fischer’s Director of the Office for Globalization at Metro Louisville. In his present role he is charged with making Louisville an international city -culturally and economically. He is an immigrant entrepreneur starting with a neighborhood grocery and expanding to international trade and information technology. Among the many programs he founded is RISE (Refugees and Immigrants Succeeding in Entrepreneurship) a collaborative dedicated to helping immigrants start and succeed in business. Mr. Kulkarni is a past President of the Board of Directors of the Asia Institute, Crane House, and the past Chair of Vogt Awards selection committee, which supports development of innovative entrepreneurial concepts. He is currently the Chair of the Indian Professional Council and on the board of the World Affairs Council, Venture Connectors,World Trade Center and on the advisory board of Jewish Family and Career Services.
  • George S. Wright, Midwest Director of Citi Community Development — Currently, George serves as Director of Community Relations forCitibank’s Global Consumer Group. In his role he is responsible for Community Development for the Midwest Region which includes 17 states in the U.S. and Canada. George rejoined Citi in July of 2007. Previous to Citi, George served as Director of Emerging Markets at Washington Mutual. In his role, he was responsible for Home Loans sales to the emerging market consumers. George joined WaMu in December of 2005. Previously, George was Senior Vice President for CRA / Fair Lending & Customer Care at GMAC Bank. George was responsible for implementation, monitoring / compliance and sales as it relates to all areas of Community Reinvestment and Customer Service. He was responsible for GMAC Bank’s local assessment area goals and a $6 Billion National CRA commitment, exceeding goal in a 2 year timeframe. George was also responsible for all branch banking, national ATM deployment / management and the Bank’s customer service call centers, both domestic and international.George began his career at Citicorp / Citibank in Illinois as a Loan Originator and was trained on all Bank sales-related products. He was later asked to take on the responsibilities of the National Sales Trainer at Citicorp Mortgage where he developed training programs and trained mortgage and bank employees on cross sales, while focusing on the credit insurance business. George then moved to Branch Banking at Citibank where he managed all sales activities for the second largest branch bank in Illinois. George then moved into the position of CRA and Fair Lending National Marketing Manager where he worked with all Citibank entities from a CRA / Fair Lending marketing perspective. George’s last role at Citibank was as Community Investment Officer for the central region, where he managed all aspects of CRA / Fair Lending.