The following post was written by graduate student Winstina Hughes about her work in Frederick, Maryland as part of the Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS).
UMD Students Engage Immigrant and Minority-Owned Businesses along Frederick’s Golden Mile
The focus of our project was on helping the City of Frederick, MD overcome its lack of success in its outreach to immigrant and minority owned businesses on the Golden Mile.
Over 100 businesses along the Golden Mile are identified as immigrant and minority owned. These businesses tend to be mom and pop restaurants, grocery, beauty and nail shops.
Our class devised a research method and divided into teams of two to coordinate in person door-to-door surveys and interviews.
Each group member was assigned 15-18 businesses to visit and two community leaders to interview. We analyzed our data and made recommendations for the City of Frederick on how to engage these business owners in the planning process.
At the beginning of the semester we received survey and interview questions developed prior to our involvement.
Given that we were working with a largely immigrant community, several members of our class wanted to “ensure that the surveys and interview scripts were designed in ways not to alienate or make business owners unnecessarily anxious or feel threatened.” We pored over articles on survey and interview methods by Robert Marans, John M. Johnson, Christopher Dunbar Jr. and Charles L Briggs. Their ideas fueled our class discussions and we decided to create our own survey and interview questions.
We distributed a ‘PALS bag’ to each business during our door to door surveying of the Golden Mile. Our bags included brochures on how the Small Area Plan could impact their business, the types of redevelopment changes that could occur as well as a guide to the planning process and more.
We received responses from 10 Asian, 5 Latino, 5 White, and 2 Black owned businesses. 13 plus respondents were born outside of the USA. Their dates of arrival to the US range from 1982 to 2007.
There were many cases in which businesses were unwilling or uncomfortable with being surveyed. We left a copy of the survey and provided instructions on how to return them to us.
Our survey and interview results revealed that immigrant and minority businesses on the Golden Mile feel a disconnect with the City. They have limited understanding of what redevelopment means, concerns with frequent traffic congestion and crime. Additionally, they are interested in improvements and are unclear on where to access news from local government.
We were thoughtful as we created our recommendations.
We have several.
Our class felt strongly that public information documents on planning of the Golden Mile should be translated into the most spoken languages in the City. We learned from our community leader interviews that approximately 20 languages are spoken at local schools. Although the County of Fredrick, MD has an English only language policy we think the City of Fredrick should not.
Additionally, we recommend that the city continue to encourage diversity through the Arts, culture and food by organizing frequent cultural festivals. This openness will positively improve local cross-cultural relationships with immigrant and minority business owners.
We also recommend that the City provide needed training and technical assistance on building permits, rents, taxes, marketing and business improvements for immigrants and minorities, as well as maintain a database of local business services. All our recommendations are in our final class paper.
On Thursday, December 18th, 2014, a few days before our paper was due, our class presented our project findings on the Golden Mile at the Asian American Center of Frederick, MD.
The purpose of our presentation was to share our analysis with the hope that local community leaders would learn about the challenges and opportunities facing their community.
Our class was pleased to have significant attendance at our presentation.
Attendees included Ms. Elizabeth Chung, Executive Director of the Asian American Center, Ms. Pamela Manjul of the Asian American Center, and Mr. Juan Carlos Rosa of Centro Hispano de Frederick. Other attendees included Ms. M.C. Keegan-Ayer from Frederick County Council, Mr. Sharad Doshi, from the Governor’s Commission on South Asian Affairs, Mr. Joseph Adkins of the City of Frederick, MD Planning Department and Mr. Alan Feinberg, a Community Planner.
We extend our gratitude to the City of Fredrick, MD for providing us the opportunity to work on this project and to our community partners, the Asian American Center of Frederick and Centro Hispano de Frederick, who served as ambassadors within the community by helping us connect when we faced language barriers with businesses and community leaders during the survey and interview process.
Winstina Hughes was one of 12 graduate students who took Planning and Design in the Multicultural Metropolis with Professor Willow Lung-Amam as part of the Urban Studies and Planning Program. She is a visiting student with a concentration in Transit Oriented Development from the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.