Wang Zhu and Jie Yu of Shanghai, China, came to Fredericton two years ago on skilled-worker permits and found employment as cooks in a local restaurant.
Stephen MacGillivray photo
They're the kind of immigrant entrepreneurs the capital needs, said Susan Holt, president of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce.
"Immigrant entrepreneurs are extremely important for Fredericton," she said Thursday at the Panda restaurant's pre-opening special at the City Motel at 1216 Regent St. for local business development experts and guests.
"Our demographics show that our population isn't growing itself.
"The way for New Brunswick and Fredericton to succeed is to attract these immigrants and then help them be successful."
The chamber operates an immigrant entrepreneur mentorship program that helps new businessmen such as Zhu and Yu learn the business ropes in this city.
The mentorship program is two years old and there are 16 people in the program, including Zhu and Yu. There were 10 businesses in the program last year.
"We've had conversations with the owners here and they've gotten off to a great start already," said Holt.
"Doing business in Canada is different from doing business in other parts of the world."
Chamber mentors will help the new restaurant owners with marketing and getting familiar with the local customer base, she said.
Holt said the goal is to grow the market for everyone.
"As our population grows, as we get more immigrants here, I think there are lots of opportunities for everyone to be successful," she said.
"Those who take up the challenge and start their own business are really contributing to the Fredericton economy and that is why the chamber executes the business immigrant mentorship program to help them be successful here so that we can really reap the benefit of their presence."
Yu said he was happy to be opening a restaurant in Fredericton and thanked everyone for coming Thursday.
"I think this is a beautiful city," he said.
"I really like it here."
Speaking through an interpreter, he said he learned about Fredericton through an immigration consultant in China that was promoting the capital.
With a population of 19 million, Shanghai is a lot bigger than Fredericton.
Yu said Fredericton is clean and friendly. His wife and daughter have visited him and applied to immigrate here. They have returned to China for now because his wife is a teacher there.
Lei Wang, an international student at the University of New Brunswick, is co-owner of the restaurant and said the restaurant will be offering authentic Chinese food.
He said the restaurant will specialize in dim sum, a Cantonese dish that usually includes steamed buns, dumplings and rice noodle rolls containing ingredients such as beef, chicken, pork, prawns and vegetables.
"I think a lot of people, a lot of Canadian, are going to like it," he said.
New Brunswick Finance Minister and former minister responsible for the Population Growth Secretariat Greg Byrne also dropped by the restaurant pre-opening to offer his well wishes.
"The business entrepreneur program is a great program of the Population Growth Secretariat," he said.
"It is certainly one of our priorities as government to bring people to New Brunswick, to tell people what New Brunswick has to offer."
He said Zhu and Yu have received many awards for their work as chefs and are well positioned to be successful here.
"We are proud that you choose Fredericton as a place to operate a business and that you choose New Brunswick as a place to live," said Byrne.