Tag Archives: Fortune 500 company immigration

Immigrant-Founded Companies on the Fortune 500

A new study from the Partnership for a New American Economy shows immigrants and their children have played a significant role in starting key companies in the United States. The study found more than 40 percent of current companies listed on the Fortune 500 were founded by either immigrants or their children. (The study can be found here )

The Partnership for a New American Economy was started by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with the mayors of Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Antonio and Phoenix, and the CEOs of Microsoft, Walt Disney, Marriott, Boeing and News Corporation. The study’s conclusion advocates changes to America’s immigration laws: “To compete, we must modernize our own immigration system so that it welcomes, rather than discourages, the Fortune 500 entrepreneurs of the 21st century global economy. We must create a visa designed to draw aspiring entrepreneurs to build new businesses and create jobs here. We must give existing American companies access to hire and keep the highly skilled workers from around the world whom they need to compete. And we must stem the loss of highly skilled foreign students trained in our universities, allowing them to stay and contribute to our economy the talent in which we’ve invested.”

Table 1 and Table 2 give a sample of the more than 200 companies in the Fortune 500 started by immigrants or their children. Some on the list may make you smile, such as Alexander Graham Bell, an immigrant from Scotland, the inventor of the telephone credited with founding AT&T, or Thomas Edison, a son of immigrants, who invented the light bulb and started General Electric.

There was only one Indian immigrant or child of immigrants on the list (Vinod Khosla, Sun Microsystems) for a simple reason: The Fortune 500 are the largest companies in America and it normally takes many years for a business to grow that large. The exceptions are some recent technology juggernauts, such as Google and eBay. Indian immigration to the United States remains relatively new, essentially post-1965. In another decade or two it would not be surprising to see a number of companies on the Fortune 500 that were started by Indian immigrants or their children.

Table 1

Immigrant-Founded Companies on the Fortune 500

Company Immigrant Founder Country of Origin
AT&T Alexander Graham Bell Scotland
Pfizer Charles Pfizer, Charles, Erhart Germany
Kraft Foods James L. Kraft Canada
Fluor John Simon Fluor, Sr. Switzerland
Kohl’s Maxwell Kohl Poland
Colgate-Palmolive William Colgate England
Sun Microsystems Vinod Khosla, Andy Bechtolsheim India, Germany
BJ’S Wholesale Club Max and Morris Feldberg Russia
EBay Pierre Omidyar France
Google Sergey Brin Russia

Source: Partnership for a New American Economy; companies had at least one immigrant founder.

Table 2

Fortune 500 Companies Started by the Children of Immigrants

Company Founder with Immigrant Parent(s) Country of Origin
General Electric Thomas Edison Canada
Ford Motor Henry Ford Ireland
IBM Herman Hollerith Germany
Boeing William E. Boeing Germany
Home Depot Bernie Marcus Russia
United Parcel Service James Casey Ireland
Apple Steve Jobs Syria
CBS William S. Paley Ukraine
Office Depot Jack Kopkin Russia
Harley-Davidson William S. Harley England

Source: Partnership for a New American Economy; companies had at least one founder who was a child of an immigrant parent or parents.