Baseball is America's great national pastime. But when the crowd cheers for a player's home run in the World Series, chances are that player isn't even American. One-fourth of all Major League Baseball players are foreign born. They're Dominican, Venezuelan, Japanese, Cuban. They're living out their American dreams, they get to stay in the U.S. as long as they play ball, and many of them will become U.S. citizens.
For centuries, the United States has been the land of opportunity for immigrants -- it was a Russian, Igor Sikorsky, who gave America the first helicopter. And Alexander Graham Bell wasn't American. He was Scottish, but he unveiled the first telephone. Immigrants have been a driving force in business ventures all across America; companies like Yahoo, Google, eBay and Intel were all founded by immigrants.
Twenty-five-year-old Tom Szaky is the CEO of Terracycle, a company that creates garden products entirely from waste. "I think America by far is one of the best countries for people to come to as an immigrant, especially as an entrepreneur," said Szaky, who was born in Hungary and raised in Canada.
Szaky came to the United States to attend college, where he came up with the crazy idea to sell worm waste as a fertilizer for plants.
"My friends and I sat down in our dorm room, wrote up a business plan, and within a year, the company started growing," he said. Terracycle has been tripling in size each year it's been in production.
"Everyone in America, when I went to them with this idea, thought, you know, it's a great idea. I met a gentleman, he shook my hand and gave me half a million dollars." But in Canada, Szaky said, he got a different response.
"They just said, 'You know what, you're 21. Go back to school, get an MBA, and then maybe we'll talk. But you don't have the experience. We just don't want to risk it,'" he recalled.
Szaky said there's more freedom in America to run the company his way. He can hire and fire on a seasonal basis, the tax system is better, and there is boundless room for growth as well as the flexibility to downsize. Szaky said, "I know there's certain countries, like Germany, for example, France, where it's almost impossible to downsize your company."
Terracycle does most of its production during the spring months and almost nothing during the fall and winter. "It's very hard for us to keep the same labor force all the way through," Szaky explained. "We just couldn't succeed and grow." The company gets school kids involved collecting the soda bottles that become Terracyle's packaging.
And even though Terracyle provides jobs for Americans and puts a good, environmentally-friendly product on the market, because Szaky isn't an American citizen, there's always the chance that he could be sent back to Canada. Szaku only has a temporary visa that he must renew every few years, a process that involves endless paperwork and legal fees. "It's always a little tricky because you could get a letter back that said you can't stay," he said.
"America is the best country that exists, and especially for what I'm doing. But it's sort of funny. … Our factory's in the inner city, we're employing all of these people, and I think to myself that there is a chance that, you know, in a month, I could not be here."