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Their peace of the dream

From left: Manny Goncalves of Cape Verde, Phi Du of Vietnam, and Vik Shah of India
From left: Manny Goncalves of Cape Verde, Phi Du of Vietnam, and Vik Shah of India (Globe Photos)

Immigrant entrepreneurs have become engines of our economy, as well as staples of our neighborhoods.

Tamboo, a Haitian-owned restaurant in downtown Brockton, is credited with drawing people back to the city's troubled center, which had been largely abandoned by private enterprise in the early 1990s.

Norwood's town center is dotted with Middle Eastern stores and restaurants.

Quincy's Asian entrepreneurs -- who number nearly 800 -- have remade the city's retail landscape, from Kam Man Market on the southern edge of the city to storefronts across Wollaston and North Quincy.

Research published this summer backs up what simple observation suggests.

A University of Massachusetts at Boston study found that the number of Asian-owned businesses in Massachusetts increased 44 percent between 1997 and 2002, nearly double the national increase. That sharp growth contrasts with a modest 5 percent increase for all companies in Massachusetts.

Furthermore, more than a quarter of biotechnology companies in Massachusetts were founded by immigrants, according to researchers from Boston University.

"The many faces of immigrant entrepreneurship are revitalizing neighborhoods and contributing significantly to economic growth in Massachusetts," said Marcia Hohn, director of public education for the Immigrant Learning Center in Malden, which sponsored the BU and UMass-Boston studies.

What follows are three profiles of immigrant entrepreneurs whose businesses have made a difference in their communities. All are small ventures with just a handful of employees among them, but each hopes to expand, as other immigrant businesses have before them.