"Small business is the
vehicle by which millions access the American Dream by creating opportunities
for women, minorities and immigrants. In this evolutionary process community
plays the crucial and indispensable role of providing the social glue and
networking that binds the small firms together in both high tech and ÎMain
StreetÌ activity." -SBA, 1998
International Corridor became, in 1996, the concept Ò the label Ò for a 2.3
mile commercial strip when the term was coined by University of Maryland
researchers. Its more than four hundred businesses along and near University
Boulevard from just east of Riggs Road to just west of Piney Branch Road have a
significant international presence, ranging from a nightclub that features
African popular music to a grocery store that imports directly from more than a
score of countries. Since then, the Corridor has been recognized as an
important planning entity by the State of Maryland, Montgomery County, Prince
GeorgeÌs County, and the City of Takoma Park. Last October, Maryland Governor
Parris Glendening chose to visit the CorridorÌs central intersection to
announce a major transportation planning decision Ò an Ïinner routeÓ alignment
for the proposed Purple Line of the Metro system. Yet the Corridor remains far
from its commercial (and residential and aesthetic) potential.
International Corridor is the Ïmain streetÓ of central suburban Maryland, tied
together with businesses, residential communities, and yes, transportation.
What is the importance of main streets Ò and the main street of central
suburban Maryland? We can do no better than draw from the National Main Street
is a symbol of community economic health, local quality of life, pride, and
community history. These are all factors in industrial, commercial and
Main Street retains and creates jobs, which also means a stronger tax base.
Long-term revitalization establishes capable businesses that use public
services and provide tax revenues for the community.
is also a good incubator for new small businesses -- the building blocks
of a healthy economy. Strip centers and malls are often too expensive for new
Main Street area reduces sprawl by concentrating retail in one area and uses
community resources wisely, such as infrastructure, tax dollars and land.
Main Street core protects property values in surrounding residential
traditional commercial district is an ideal location for independent
businesses, which in turn:
profits in town. Chain businesses send
profits out of town.
local families with family-owned businesses
local community projects, such as ball
teams and schools
an extremely stable economic foundation,
as opposed to a few large businesses and chains with no ties to stay in the
revitalized Main Street increases the community's options for goods and
services: whether for basic staples, like clothing, food and professional
services or less traditional functions such as housing and entertainment.
provides an important civic forum, where members of the community can
congregate. Parades, special events and celebrations held there reinforce
intangible sense of community. Private developments like malls can and do
restrict free speech and access.
Street districts become tourist attractions by virtue of the character of
buildings, location, selection of unique businesses, and events held there.
research reported in this document is dedicated to the proposition that
MarylandÌs International CorridorÌs potential is strong and should be realized.
But what approach should be taken? In early 2002, the Urban Land Institute
issued ÏReinventing Suburban Business Districts,Ó a publication that provides
an important set of guidelines. They list ten, of which the following directly
apply to the challenge this research team undertook for the International
Corridor: understand your position in the market; build community support;
develop a vision and a plan; and create a public/private partnership. (In
addition, the following are already underway: honor human scale by creating a
pedestrian-friendly place; think transit Ò think density.)
report has been prepared by a team of nine writers-researchers, all affiliated
with the University of Maryland at College Park. A seminar in the universityÌs
Urban Studies and Planning Program served as the institutional vehicle for the
work. The report has been written by Rachael Coleman-Gibson, Mark Antoinne
Lewis-Lee, Monica Meade, Elizabeth F. Norton, Ligia Maria Perez Reyes, Alexis
Michelle Rourk, and Ilana Sommer, and edited by Monica Meade and William John
Hanna; these eight people plus Jeanette Antonieta Paucar conducted the field
research upon which the report is based.
on this project began in late January 2002 and continued through May 2002. An
oral version of the report, presented to the semi-annual meeting of the
Takoma-Langley Crossroads Development Authority in early May (which various
state and local officials attended), provided the team with an important
opportunity to test ideas and obtain feedback. There has been significant input
from a number of individuals, including Charles Buki who consults for Prince
GeorgeÌs County, H. Joseph Edwards of HJE Associates, Gul Guleryuz of the
Prince GeorgeÌs County Economic Development Corporation, Marc ÏKapÓ Kapistan of
Quantum Management, Erwin Mack of the Takoma-Langley Crossroads Development
Authority, and Peter Shapiro of the Prince GeorgeÌs County Council, plus more
than sixty Corridor businesspeople who served as interview respondents.
is the hope of the members of the research team that this report will provide
an additional catalyst to the process of Corridor development. Feedback is
encouraged so that future editions of the report reflect the thinking of all
area stakeholders and specialists.
ðððððð We have a vision of the future of MarylandÌs International
Corridor.ð Our vision is of a vibrant
and stable business community reflecting the multitude of ethnic groups that
live and shop in this area.
ðððððð Already the cuisine and music of other cultures draw
adventurous people looking for something more unusual than pizza.ð We envision this trend increasing.ð The restaurants, music and dance clubs will
be part of a lively nightlife that brings people throughout the DC area.ð These newcomers to the corridor will see the
other businesses, and all businesses will ultimately benefit.ð Business development will mean neighborhood
development.ð Successful businesses
provide employment and income to community members and their families.ð These benefits will not only strengthen the
local residents and the local economy, but even relatives in the countries left
behind, as money is sent back to them.
ðððððð One of the most important components of this vision of the
future is an organization of the business
people providing political and collective strength.ð With collective power government will more easily hear the voice
of the community and the community will be more able to attain its goals.ð On another level this organization will
provide more practical benefits such as mentoring and guidance for new
ðððððð We envision corridor businesses working
to create an environment where diners and shoppers feel safe.ð Not only will crime be lessened, but also the
perception of crime will be lessened.ð Streets and other public space will be cared for and beautified.ð Public transportation in and around the area
will be convenient and accessible.
ðððððð We see a small or micro-business
development center supporting existing businesses and help develop new
enterprises.ð It will educate and serve
the community and provide micro-loans or at least assistance obtaining
ðððððð Finally we
envision a time where people from throughout the DC metropolitan area will
consider the corridor to be an attractive destination for day and evening
shopping and entertainment.
ðððððð The work
that we report on builds upon solid the foundations and initiatives of others.
The attention that many have given to the area strengthens the rationale for
our proposals to improve MarylandÌs International Corridor. Some of the
initiatives already underway include the Tri-Jurisdictional Task Force, the
Streetscapes Project, the HotSpots Program, the Community Legacy Program, and a
set of transportation projects.
The Tri-Jurisdictional Task Force
ðððððð The Tri-Jurisdictional Task Force, linking Montgomery
County, Prince GeorgeÌs County, and the City of Takoma Park, was set up by the
Office of the Governor in response to lobbying by the Takoma-Langley Crossroads
Development Authority, Action Langley Park, and others. The lobbying was
catalyzed by a dispute over the job-seeking activities of day laborers who were
judged undesirable by some businesspeople and other stakeholders. The day laborer
focus broadened to include several other topics of concern to those with a
stake in the area.
ðððððð ðThe Task Force Program includes proposals in
several areas. One of them is in transportation. Solutions have been
established to solve the problems of many pedestrians and those dependent upon
public transportation. These will benefit the International Corridor as a whole
because it will create continuity along the two-mile commercial strip as well
as a more organized space. Some of the solutions set up are: a permanent bus
transit facility at the University Boulevard Ò New Hampshire Avenue
intersection; relieve overcrowding on key bus routes serving the area; a bus
shuttle connecting population centers at and near the intersection, offering an
alternative to short vehicle and pedestrian trips; and the ÏInternational
ExpressÓ, a new route connecting the corridor running east to west from College
Park through the Crossroads to Bethesda. Stops include intersections at
University Boulevard and Riggs Road and University Boulevard and New Hampshire
Avenue. The first run for this route was on April 15th 2002. Also,
the project includes improvement of basic transit amenities such as more and
better bus shelters and benches, improving pedestrian access to bus stops and
increased availability of the circulation material (timetables, safety guides,
and promotional literature in Spanish). All of these solutions will benefit the
area directly because they will create a better landscaping and transportation
Safety is another issue that the three jurisdictions are trying to improve.
Before, there was little communication among the separate police forces. The
duty of a police officer stopped at the jurisdictional boundary; responsibility
did not go beyond the boundary even though the officer could have been helpful
to the neighbor city. The solution that the Task Force established was to
increase communication and joint patrol between law enforcement agencies of the
three jurisdictions. Now they can cross the border to help each other when
needed. One of the accomplishments that came along with this is the initiative
of 16 Nextel phones for inter-jurisdictional to increase communications among
them. One of the promising recommendations is community participation. The
task-force states: ÏRealizing that any anti-crime strategy, regardless of how
sound, will fail without community involvement, the Subcommittee
increased outreach to residents, business owners and other stakeholders.Ó
Hopefully, this will result in close police-businessperson relationships
without jeopardizing cooperation with residents, including day laborers.
ðððððð Finally, the day laborers might obtain a
new location where the job contracting will be more convenient for both
employers and prospective employees. Ideally, this will be located close to
intersection of University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue, taking into
consideration land use issues, such as schools and day care services, and
pedestrian and traffic services. The task-force sub-committee stated: ÏOn the basis
of the information reviewed, the Day Labor Subcommittee recommends the
establishment of a new site to provide employment services for day laborers: in
addition to the permanent existing facilities and services, as close as possible
to the University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue intersection, and which is
selected with careful consideration of sensitive land use issues, such as
schools and day care centers, takes into account public safety for pedestrians
and traffic and addresses the needs of day laborers and the affected
neighborhoods.Ó Currently, no
specification of the location has taken place because of the dramatically
different views of the stakeholders. However, a commission has been establish
to make a recommendation. We think it is very important for the vital labor
contracting to be facilitated, and yet for the interests of businesspeople to
Maryland Department of Transportation project includes improvements of
pedestrian environments, landscaping, bus shelters and stops, and other
important issues that will enhance the attractiveness and mobility in the area.
The project held a number of meetings through 2001-2001 to develop a set of
recommendations of improvements in the area.
The scope of this project is almost contiguous with MarylandÌs International
Corridor it includes University Boulevard and the immediate adjoining streets
from Piney Branch Road to Adelphi Road. The plans for streetscape improvement,
essentially completed, are being forwarded for funding consideration. If the
project goes forward, it may be in small segments.
ðððððð The main
concern for residents and shoppers of the Corridor area is that University
Boulevard is six lanes wide, yet there is considerable pedestrian traffic and,
apparently, a strong potential for bicycle traffic. Many people walk to bus
stops, schools, parks, businesses, friends, etc. Indeed, the area has the
highest concentration of non-auto-owners adjacent to any state road in
Maryland. The proposal assumes a 100 foot right-of-way which will include a
minimum of ten feet of sidewalks, ten feel of bicycle lanes, 66 feet for six
vehicular traffic lanes, and 14 feet of meridian and turning lanes. Where the
right-of-way is wider, the sidewalks will be enlarged. Better landscaping, turn
lanes, and other amenities are being proposed. Another main issue is the
location of the crosswalks, bus stops and commercial entrances. Most people
cross from one side of the street to the other side anywhere throughout the
corridor. It becomes a safety issue when mothers need to get from one end to
another pushing baby strollers or taking groceries back home. This can be a
draw back for people who depend on public transportation. Also, public
transportation should be coordinated so that people get off near the entrance
of the commercial facilities or the bus stop they are going to, rather than
walking some distance to get there. The Task Force is working on how to combine
the vehicular and pedestrian traffic. This will create a more welcoming
environment to any visitor or resident and build a better image of the retail
and restaurants in the area.
The HotSpot Program
project currently underway is the Maryland International Corridor HotSpot
Program. The Corridor is one of the most recent additions to this GovernorÌs
Initiative and is the first to incorporate a multi-jurisdictional effort. The
HotSpot Community Program is designed to target and mobilize areas that are
at-risk of or maintain high levels of crime. Said Governor Glendening when
announcing the program: ÏOne of the goals of our Smart Growth initiative is to
revitalize our older towns and cities. But nothing we do - not tax credits or
other incentives - will convince citizens to return to neighborhoods if they
are afraid of crime. The HotSpots initiative is a centerpiece of our strategy
to give old neighborhoods new life."
ðððððð As we
know, both from surveying local businesses as well as from a range of social
research projects, security, crime and even fear of crime can have potent
effects on the success of business in the local community. According to Paul S.
Grogan and Tony Proscio, authors of Comeback Cities, ÏRemove the element of
fear from peopleÌs residential and investment decisions - or even just reduce
it - and just about everything changes.Ó
Thus there is
a strong case for the implementation and efficacy potential of a program like
HotSpots. Of course, the name is somewhat unfortunate because it identifies in
the publicÌs mind an area as one that is ÏhotÓ Ò and that is not meant as a
ðððððð Now midway
through its second year, the CorridorÌs HotSpot Initiative has had a relatively
slow start but has engaged in research and planning for the very near future. In
addition to the recent hiring of a project director, the HotSpot Team has
communicated and cooperated with the business and faith communities, as well as
community, law enforcement and public safety groups and the GovernorÌs
Tri-Jurisdictional Task-Force. According to the 2001 Annual Report, the
programÌs primary emphasis in the near future will be upon education, outreach,
and coordination. More specifically, the report specifies coordination,
community mobilization, youth prevention, community oriented policing, and
victimÌs assistance and outreach. Of course, project implementation is key. For
instance, Ïcommunity oriented policingÓ can be an effective tool for
police-community partnership, but it can also be little more than an attempt to
obtain Federal funding. Hopefully, the CorridorÌs HotSpot program will lead to
a decrease crime, the fear of crime, and the reputation of the area as one of
Community Legacy Plan
by Prince GeorgeÌs County and supported by state funding, the Community Legacy
Program provides for community revitalization projects. The countyÌs
Redevelopment Authority is the local lead agency. The official state program
description includes the following: ÏThe Community Legacy Program competitively
awards funding to local governments and community development corporations to
undertake comprehensive neighborhood revitalization strategies. This flexible
fund will support both capital and non-capital projects.Ó
After nearly a year of planning, several proposals have been made on how these
state dollars would best contribute to the revitalization of the Langley Park Ò
Lewisdale portion of the International Corridor.
ðððððð The broad
focus is on businesses, residents, and social service provision. A likely
project will be support of the long-proposed Multicultural Service Center that
can become a community hub for information and referrals of public services and
government offices, human and job development, youth leadership development,
recreation and cultural heritage activities, and mental health and family
crisis services. As far as a potential location for the center, it may take
over the middle floor of the International Mall or the administrative space of
the Langley Park Community Center.ð
ðððððð For many
residents of the Corridor, this center would serve as an invaluable alternative
to more distant county and state agencies. Furthermore, with the incorporation
of youth, cultural and recreational activities, the center would provide a safe
public space for community meetings, live performances and other
businesses in the International Corridor, the Multicultural Service Center
could house many relevant activities (e.g., job training) and organizations,
including the proposed small business center. It might also provide space for
an office of the Maryland International Corridor CDC, which would enable it to
become a more positive force in the area.
ðððððð We have
already noted that the Tri-Jurisdictional Task Force has developed a series of
proposals for the International Corridor, and that the Streetscape Project
incorporates such elements as bus stops into its proposal. But there is more.
The Maryland Governor has proposed a Metro ÏPurple LineÓ to connect Bethesda,
Silver Spring, the International Corridor, College Park, and New Carrolton.
Governor Glendening states: ÏMaryland is taking aggressive steps to provide
transit service where and when people need it most. For almost 30 years there
has been agreement that we need an east-west expansion of the Metro system to
connect Montgomery and Prince GeorgeÌs Counties.ð We have reviewed studies by the Maryland Department of
Transportation and conferred with elected officials, community leaders and
experts, and it is now time for a decision, not more division.ð To be most effective, MarylandÌs Purple Line
must be built inside the Capital Beltway. It will take thousands of cars off
our roads, encourage Smart Growth development in some of our oldest communities
and town centers, and provide transit to those who need transit the most.Ó Of
course, the Purple Line will be a major boost to MarylandÌs International
Corridor, making travel from such centers as Bethesda and Silver Spring much
ðððððð There are
many initiatives under way that will enhance the quality of the business
environment in MarylandÌs International Corridor. Safety will be improved,
transportation will be enhanced, and more. But there is a significant gap: the
many appealing businesses are not organized, not in touch with a range of
information that can improve their bottom lines, and not visible to the five
million people in the Washington Metropolitan area. These are matters we not
continue the trend of development in MarylandÌs International Corridor, we
think it is critical to establish an active corridor-wide business
organization. The Takoma/Langley Park Crossroads Development Authority is a
positive force in the area, but it incorporates fewer than half of the
CorridorÌs businesses Ò and therefore less than half of the CorridorÌs
resources and potential.
of the larger, established businesses near the University Boulevard Ò New
Hampshire Avenue crossroads are doing well; however, the smaller businesses
away from the crossroads are generally less successful. A business organization
will help strengthen these and all of the rest of the businesses in the area. A
successful corroder-wide organization can be implemented through the currently
inactive Maryland International Corridor CDC or by creating a new CDC.
wrote, ÏMen journey together with a view to ÷ the general advantages it
brings.Ó In other words, organizations such as what we have in mind for the
International Corridor exist for collective advantage, and that advantage must
be appreciated by individuals (or individual businesses) to justify the
decisions to join, to participate, and to sustain membership. The businesses of
the Corridor must come to understand the advantage.
area encompassed by the International Corridor, including the commercial
sections (and other sections too) of such neighborhoods as Langley Park,
northern Takoma Park, New Hampshire Estates, and Long Branch, are commercially
and residentially highly diverse. Many of the adults were born outside the
United States, and their goal is to become successful as individual
entrepreneurs in their new country. This may entail family support and long
hours with little time to think about or act upon collective action.
and economists conclude that there is a significant relationship between civic
life and economic development, and that there is a need for social ties in
ethnic business development. ÏImmigrant groups use social relationships to
achieve levels of economic growth that cannot be explained by standard economic
ð In the International Corridor, the social
relations appear to be minimal, and the minimal ones appear to be intra-ethnic.
Thus greater opportunities for economic growth may not have been realized. By
establishing the proposed business organization, the area enhance
development-energizing social relationships.
effective business organization can help to create a level of social capital
and hence increase profits. Social capital, as explained by Gittell and
Thompson, "consists of associations and norms that enable participants to
act together effectively to pursue shared objectives, as has been observed
among ethnic groups in certain communities. However, to the extent that social
capital is of the bridging type Ò bringing together people and resources that
normally do not come together Ò the increased cooperation is likely to serve
broader interests.÷ [O]utside of ethnic enclaves, businesses and entrepreneurs
often lack not only the connections to one another but also to bankers,
investors, suppliers, and customers located outside the neighborhood.Ó
Two initial steps should be taken to create a
corridor-wide organization.ð First, a coregroup
of people must be identified who appear willing to explore this possibility
(and then, later, mobilize others and take all the needed implementation
action). This core group may be identified by interviewing the business owners
in the area and returning to those who have expressed a vested interest in the
collective well being of the area. Second, the core group must lead the actual
implementation process by reaching out to all the businesses to attempt to
convince them that they should be involved - or at least passively supportive
of the organization.
ðððððð One way to
garner the support and help of other businesses would be to show the
accomplishments of other business organizations of collective action. The
Takoma/Langley Park CDA is certainly an example, based upon its success in
beautification and upkeep, police security, and a voice in the political realm
at the local and state levels. Of course, there are many other examples
throughout the country of successful organizations of small businesses. Some
market, some raise money from the public and private sectors, some develop
security teams, and so forth.
ðððððð But who
will form the core leadership group? Our recommendation is
to form the core based on representation of key business sub-groups in the area
based upon culture and/or area. The former would help to overcome the
various language and cultural barriers that exist. However, the current
strength of the Takoma/Langley Park CDA makes area representation appealing.
Corridor areas might include the relevant parts of Takoma Park as represented
by the CDA, Prince GeorgeÌs County, and Montgomery County. (It should be
pointed out that the goal of this organization is not to replace the CDA, but
to further the goals of the CDA by uniting more businesses together into a
larger entity.) One organizational design would include parallel leadership
groups, one based upon culture and the other upon area. Thus the organization
would be bicameral (i.e., similar to the Maryland legislature).
Corridor organization would, we envision, have the power to create a forum for
planning and advocating change from Piney Branch Road to Adelphi Road. It would
be a basis for pooling resources and establishing a collective effort for
marketing, the creation of a small business center, enhanced security, perhaps
some discounted collective purchases of goods and services (e.g., web
construction, deliveries and telephone services), and a variety of other
actions beneficial to the area. It would also provide a powerful voice within decisionmaking
bodies such as the Tri-Jurisdictional Commission, the Streetscape Task-Force,
and the Community Legacy Advisory Group. Furthermore, it would become an
advocacy group for better transportation, security, streetscape improvement,
etc. It would also help to link the business community with the residents.
Positive change is much more likely to take place if businesses and residents
work together. Therefore, the new organization would have close ties with such
organizations as Action Langley Park and the Long Branch Neighborhood
ðððððð There are
a number of challenges that arise as businesspeople and their allies work to
create a successful corridor-wide organization. These challenges and some of
the responses are indicated here.
Ïfree riderÓ problem. As Mancur Olsen has written,"Unless
the number of individuals in a group is quite small, or unless there is
coercion or some other special device to make individuals act in their common
interest, rational, self-interested
individuals will not act to achieve their common or group interests."
Olsen uses the example of a community park. If some residents in a
neighborhood want to build a new park, the rational person will not contribute
because if the park is built s/he can use it regardless of whether a
contribution was made. Similarly, in creating an International Corridor
organization that is voluntary, the few will work on development yet the many
(including the Ïfree ridersÓ) will benefit. The situation is why organizations
such as the Takoma-Langley CDA have the equivalent of universal taxing
authority. If a Corridor organization does not have mandatory membership with
fees, then some organizational privileges may have to be restricted. For instance,
the fee-paying members might have more space in corridor-wide marketing efforts
as well as votes on marketing strategies.
Language and Cultural Barriers Ò Maryland's International Corridor is a highly
diverse, and this diversity may inhibit communication amongst business owners.
ÏStrangeÓ people may create fears or uncertainties, and yet trust within the
organization is essential. One way to help minimize this hindrance is by
forming the organization on the basis of cultural sub-groups. This would provide
business owners who do not have a command of the English language to discuss
the issues that they have in the community with their representative whom can
then bring the issue up for discussion in front of the business organization.
These sub-groups would also help bridge the gap between the different cultures
and their personal methods of business management. Perhaps the cultural
leadership group would be part of a bicameral arrangement (see above).
Time Barriers Ò During the interviews that we conducted in our field research, a number of
managers and owners commented that they recognized the need for a structured
Corridor organization but time constraints might well prohibit them from
actively participating. Indeed, many of the CorridorÌs businesses are small
with few employees or family members on the job. Therefore, owners may have
little time to leave their businesses to attend meetings. We can imagine
several approaches. First, businesspeople tied down to their enterprise may not
be able to participate as core members; however, ways must be found to empower
them so that their views are fully taken into consideration. Outreach, perhaps
in conjunction with the proposed small business center, is one possibility.
Second, it may be necessary to hold annual or semi-annual general assemblies at
unusual hours, e.g., on a Sunday evening, in order to maximize participation.
Jurisdictional Barriers Ò The tri-jurisdictional nature of the area has and
may well continue to create barriers to cooperation. Creating an organization
of the scope and magnitude we propose will require businesspeople Ò and
officials Ò of Prince GeorgeÌs County, Montgomery County and the City of Takoma
Park to actively and effectively communicate with one another. Fortunately, a
major first step has been taken by the Office of the Governor in initially
creating a Tri-Jurisdictional Task Force (to focus on transportation, safety,
and day labor issues) and then forming a permanent Tri-Jurisdictional
Commission. Furthermore, the new HotSpot Program also bridges the three
jurisdictions, and we are optimistic that it will become effective in its
second year. These efforts have demonstrated that it is not impossible for the
jurisdictions to work together. We think that a meeting should take place between
the newly formed Tri-Jurisdictional Commission, the new HotSpot coordinator,
key neighborhood organizational representatives, and relevant others to
consider steps that need to be taken to make a Corridor organization a reality.
Apathy Ò It
is clear from this research teamÌs interviews that quite a few business owners
and managers are apathetic about existing and possible future business
organizations. They are not convinced that a new organization will be
beneficial to them. Attendance at the semi-annual Takoma-Langley CDA meetings
reflects this apathy even though members of the CDA have paid membership fees.
Clearly, the core group has a significant challenge to spread the organization
widely into the business community. We think that it is crucial for personal
visits to be made to each business to show the owner and/or manager that the
Corridor organization would be beneficial to them. Such a campaign will require
a solid knowledge of the advantages of collective action, marketing, business
advice (through a business center), opportunities at the local and state
levels, etc. However, the advantages do exist, and we do not wish to suggest
that the businesspeople are unable to realize the potential. It may initially
be a Ïhard sell,Ó but the eventual payoff is sufficient to make organizational
International Corridor has a diversity of rich cultural assets, but few people
know about them. Of course, the Indian community knows about the restaurants,
sari shops, and general stores; the Cambodian community knows about its
restaurant and grocery stores; and segments of the Latino community know about
the Peruvian, Dominican, and Salvadoran restaurants and other businesses.
what is known constitutes only a small part of what could and should be known
by the residents of the Washington Metropolitan area and beyond. To address
what we consider to be an unfortunate gap, we think that an effective marketing
plan for the community should be developed and implemented.
The Food Strategy
ðððððð It might
be possible to promote the entire International Corridor and its cultural
assets. There are many restaurants, groceries, music and video stores, clothing
stores that import from around the world, specialty shops, outlet and other
discount businesses, and more. However, we believe in the marketing adage:
ÏSelect one product or service to promote.Ó
ð Our conclusion, drawing upon marketing
theory and our knowledge of the Corridor, is that the initial focus should be
on food - the great diversity of restaurants and grocery stores that cater to
just about every ethnic background.
At the restaurants, a person can eat the foods of Africa, Cambodia, various
parts of the Caribbean such as Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, India (from
the countryÌs north and south), Mexico, Peru, Salvador, Vietnam, and probably
many others. Furthermore, the grocery stores in part mirror this variety and
add specialties from such countries as Ethiopia and Haiti.
ðððððð Some food
cultures are represented by a single restaurant or grocery. For instance, there
is only one Cambodian and one African restaurant. Others, however, are present
in great numbers and variety. For instance, Latin cuisine can be found in
nineteen Corridor restaurants!
constitute an ever-changing business that constantly needs to explore the
challenges of both marketing and cuisine in order to survive competition and
fashion changes. Reinventing and creating new ways to tempt a diversity of
tastes of new patrons can be demanding. A restaurant is more than just a
passion for creating new and exciting dishes; it becomes a balance of business
skills and enjoyment for creating a unique experience for patrons. Without a
proper long term business and marketing plan, a restaurant may have a very
can survive as single entities. However, the International Corridor appears to
provide an opportunity for collective marketing. Understanding and building a
strong brand Ò the Corridor Ò constitutes the potential we see. This requires
the right marketing mix and dynamic strategic thinking. Since restaurants are
always in the public eye, a firm grasp on public relations and the ability to
create strong ties with newspapers and perhaps even magazines need to be
course, the external marketing we have in mind does not exhaust promotional
strategies. Within the restaurant, the physical layout, presentation, mood
evoked, and attention to detail are important ingredients. In the Corridor, one
of the positive examples is Tiffin. Restaurants need to train their staff to
not only understand the finer details of service but to care about them.
Training is all about building a culture of learning and nurturing. This can be
accomplished by setting in place correct motivation strategies and reward
incentives that build loyal, passionate staff that will continually bring
Who Knows the Corridor?
We have not been able to conduct a wide-ranging sample
survey of the knowledge of residents and others in the area with regard to
MarylandÌs International Corridor or its restaurants. However, the small
questionnaire sample of 38 undergraduate students at the University of Maryland
(just a mile from the center of the Corridor) is suggestive. The results clearly
reveal the great opportunity for effective marketing. Here are the frequencies
established through the questionnaire:
ÏHave you ever
heard of ÎMarylandÌs International CorridorÌÓ? Yes=16% , No=84%. However, two
of the ÏyesÓ respondents misidentified the Corridor area, so the more accurate
figures should be: Yes=11%, No=89%.
questionnaire item focused respondents on Ïthe businesses located along and
near University Boulevard from the campus westward for about two miles to Piney
Branch Road,Ó and asked if the person had ever eaten in a restaurant or shopped
in the area. The responses: Eaten, Yes=30%, No=70%; Shopped, Yes=21%, No=89%.
Interestingly, about half of the restaurants mentioned were fast food. The two
shops mentioned more than once were Tick Tock and Value Village.
respondents were asked about their general impressions of the area. Here is a
sample of the responses: ÏLots of traffic, lots of international shopsÓ; ÏI
like the area and the diversity of restaurants and people, but it seems a
little run-down and could probably use some work to make it more
pedestrian-friendlyÓ; ÏRun downÓ; ÏHighly international area; in need of a
community clean-upÓ; ÏIt could definitely use some work to make it more
appealing to the publicÓ; ÏPoor, unsafe at night, dilapidatedÓ; ÏRough
neighborhood, strong ethnic areaÓ; ÏMany cultural s pots, restaurantsÓ.
ðððððð From this
very preliminary micro-study, we conclude that the area is not well known, and
that it has a mixed reputation that includes being international but also not
very appealing physically. This section focuses on the Ïnot well knownÓ;
hopefully, the streetscape project and other efforts will address the physical
appeal of the area.
Market to Whom?
ðððððð There are many locations that would appear to be good
targets for a marketing initiative. However, the interviews we conducted in the
International Corridor showed that many of the businesses currently attract
local residents to the area to shop and eat. With this in mind and reaching slightly
beyond the immediate (walking) area, we think that the optimal marketing
targets for the first stage of a marketing campaign include the University of
MarylandÌs College Park campus (and its sister University of Maryland
University College), Archives II, The Meany Labor Center, the linked campuses
of Columbia Union College and Washington Adventist Hospital, and The American
Center for Physics.
ðððððð The greatest potential resource for visitors
to MarylandÌs Internatinal Corridor is the University of Maryland, with its
twin institutions in College Park: The University of Maryland at College Park
(a general institution granting the full range of degrees) and the University
of Maryland University College (mostly an evening program for adults). Also
located on the campus is Byrd Stadium, which attracts up to 40,000 for football
games, the new Staples Center, which will house 20,000 fans for basketball and
other events, the Smith Performing Arts Center, a multi-performance space
complex that draws more than 1,000 people a day to various events, and the Inn
and Conference Center that houses national and international conferences many
times a year.
ðððððð Not including the occasional visitor for
sporting events, conferences, etc., the College Park campus has a population
that approximates a small city. The make-up includes over 400 clubs and
organizations (many of them international), 34,160 students, 7,294 faculty
members, and 4,567 members of the staff. The total for this marketing target is
the University of Maryland holds the largest population, the Archives II,
employs over 200 staff and the Center for Physics with over 50 staff.
National Archives at College Park opened for research in January, 1994. Records
held there include the cartographic and architectural holdings; the Nixon
Presidential Materials; electronic records; motion picture, sound, and video
records; the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection; still pictures;
the Berlin Documents Center microfilm; and textual records from most civilian
agencies and military records dating from World War II. It employs a staff of
200 and, of course, has many visitors. (A member of this research team has been
called several times by out-of-town future visitors asking about area
American Center for Physics, with a permanent staff of 50, brings together in
one building the American Institute of Physics, The American Physical Society, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and
the American Association of Physicists in Medicine.
The staff began working in October, 1993. A Center document states: ÏThe
American Center for Physics provides a focal point for the physics community,
increases the community's interactions with government decision makers, and
serves as a resource for scientists, educators, and the public.Ó
funded by the AFL-CIO, the George Meany Center for Labor Studies/National Labor
College is the school of the U.S. Labor Movement. The Center provides
rank-and-file union leaders with specialized training in issues such as union organizing
and the law, contract bargaining, using the Internet to research employers,
grievance handling, and the arbitration process. The NLC, an accredited
institution of higher education, offers an academic course of study leading to
a Bachelor of Arts degree and, in cooperation with the University of
Massachusetts at Amherst and the University of Baltimore, a master's degree
program. The Center also houses the George Meany Memorial Archives and the
George Meany Memorial Archives Library.
Union College and Washington Adventist Hospital incorporate several thousand
students, faculty members, staff members, health specialists, and patients.
These facilities are in the City of Takoma Park within walking distance of much
of the international corridor.
ðððððð There are
other centers of employment and activity adjacent to or a short distance beyond
the Corridor area. Five are worth noting here: The National Space Science Data
Center in Greenbelt, which is the permanent archive for NASA space science
mission data; the City of Takoma Park, which has a population of about 17,000
people and occupies the area between the International Corridor and MaryandÌs
boundary with the District of Columbia; East Silver Spring, the area that
begins at the western end of the International Corridor; the City of College
Park, which begins at the eastern end of the Corridor; and Langley Park, a
neighborhood of about 20,000 residents that begins at the northern border of
ðððððð There is a wider audience that, at little cost, should be made
aware of the riches of the International Corridor. That is the users of the
world wide web. We recommend the creation of a Corridor web site that will
feature restaurants, grocery stores, and perhaps other retail resources, as
well as a map identifying the location of these businesses.
ðððððð Every one
of the marketing targets we designated above has some form of internal
communication. For instance, the City of Takoma Park has a television station
and a monthly newspaper called Takoma Voice. Furthermore, there are some area
publications that should be part of any marketing plan, e.g., the area Gazette,
Journal, and Sentinel newspapers. However, we think that the most inviting
target is the University of MarylandÌs College Park campus population
(including the main campus and University College). Therefore, we will give
special attention to this opportunity.
ðððððð There are
three main University of Maryland resources to promote and advertise MarylandÌs
International Corridor. The most important is the universityÌs student-run
Diamondback newspaper, published by Maryland Media. It runs local
advertisements for many businesses ranging in size from 1/64-inch items to a
full-page or even a special supplement.
For instance, a quarter page advertisement listing thirty restaurants would
cost each restaurant about $15. There is also a University of MarylandÌs
low-range radio station, 88.1 FM/WMUC; it strives to inform and educate its
listeners with frequent public service announcements and apparently would be
happy to provide information about the Corridor. The university also has a set
of information and opinion periodicals, e.g., the Faculty Voice (which in its
Spring 2002 issue covered the proposed Purple Line and listed a score of
restaurants located near likely Purple Line stations) and the Outlook. The
Faculty Voice also publishes restaurant reviews. Various campus web sites have
restaurant listings; they are antiquated, but an effort by Corridor
businesspeople to upgrade the listings would be received with favor.
effective and comprehensive marketing plan backed by a Corridor-wide
organization and linked to a small business center (which would offer marketing
information and instruction) should make it possible for MarylandÌs
International Corridor to become both well known throughout the Washington
Metropolitan area and, consequently, to be a location filled with successful
entrepreneurs making their mark in the small business sector.
Small or Micro-Business Center
ðððððð One of the
greatest needs in MarylandÌs International Corridor, our research indicates, is
help for the small and mostly independent businesses.ð Many of these are Ïmom and popÓ family businesses. The vibrant
Corridor business community and the high retail sales per square foot mask the
struggling status of many of the businesses and their high failure/turnover
small businesses comprise 99% of all employers. Business survival rates,
drawing upon the most recent Small Business Administration data, indicate that
about 1/3 fail within two years and nearly half fail within four years. The
businesses in MarylandÌs International Corridor have the same struggles as
those found elsewhere in the country, and added to the general challenges are
such locally specific ones as language/cultural differences and multiple
ðððððð The small
businesses in MarylandÌs International Corridor are impressive manifestations
of the optimism and hopefulness of the business owners. However, this confident
attitude is often combined with a lack of knowledge of good business practices.
Our anecdotal evidence reveals that many of the businesses do not have
something as simple and helpful as overdraft protection on their checking
ðððððð It is
evident that many of the businesses could be helped by education about sensible
business practices. Providing advice and support for areaÌs entrepreneurs Ò and
aspirant entrepreneurs - would strengthen the community by improving the
financial health of the target businesses, and the impact would spill over into
the Corridor at large.
should, we think, be an institutionalized way to help small and micro business
in the Corridor. A not-for-profit business center well be the answer to
providing substantial help. Free classes or workshops, as well as drop-in
counseling or problem solving, would seem to be an obvious solution.
ðððððð There is a
small business development center, located on Route 1, which works
collaboratively with the University of Maryland. Unfortunately, its focus is on
bigger small businesses; and many of its services, such as mentoring, are not
free. The size of the Corridor businesses and their marginal profits require
that the center we propose should provide services free of charge to the small,
marginal entrepreneurs. Prince GeorgeÌs and Montgomery Counties do have
business development offices, but they are not in the immediate corridor area.
The nature of MarylandÌs International Corridor is such that a small business
center needs to be in the area and part of the community. The potential users
probably would not make use of an unfamiliar institution outside the area.
ðððððð To create
a skilled small business center in MarylandÌs International Corridor requires
several challenges to be addressed. The most important relates to the fact that
many of the businesses are owned by recent immigrants to the United States, and
therefore issues of culture, language and trust arise. Ideally, mentoring
should be provided by a member of immigrant group of the entrepreneur. Two
nationality groups have well organized support groups, the Latinos and the
Vietnamese. For the former, CASA de Maryland, based in the Corridor, has a wide
range of support skills and should probably be involved, either by linking more
experienced Latino businesspeople with new or aspiring entrepreneurs, or by
providing language help. The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is another potential
resource. The Vietnamese community has a support organization, Boat People
S.O.S., that is headquartered in Virginia but has an office in the Corridor; it
provides English classes, computer classes, and other support services. The
Vietnamese Mutual Association is another resource. If the small business center
is established, these organizations should be encouraged to participate. Of
course, there are other ethnic and nationality groups represented in the
International CorridorÌs business community; an effort must be made to identify
organizations that might contribute to the multicultural effort.
non-ethnic organizations specialize in providing support for small businesses,
and these might be brought into the program with the hope that some nationality
matching could take place. Such an organization is SCORE. This organizationÌs web
site states: ÏThe SCORE Association (Service Corps of Retired Executives) is a
nonprofit association dedicated to entrepreneur education and the formation,
growth and success of small business nationwide. SCORE is a resource partner
with the Small Business Administration (SBA). SCORE Association
volunteers serve as ÎCounselors to America's Small Business.Ì Working and
retired executives and business owners donate their time and expertise as
volunteer business counselors and
provide confidential counseling and mentoring free of charge.Ó
challenge facing the small business is that the owner may not be able to leave
the store without closing shop. The proposed business center would probably
work best if the mentors or advisors could meet with the businesspeople in
their own stores. A further advantage is that the small businessperson remains
in his territory, and therefore the contact with a center staff person may not
business people to accept information and take advice constitutes yet another
challenge. Trust, self-esteem, and relevance are among the issues involved.
Many of the business owners we contacted agreed that a small business center
would in principle be a good idea, but often the impression we received was
that the respondent might well not use of such an institution. Trust might be
addressed by having a co-national provide the help, and that might reduce the
threat to self-esteem. However, relevance remains to be addressed. Based on a
suggestion by a local real estate owner, we conclude that the information and
recommendations should be specific, narrow, and unambiguous. Examples of this
are: telling businesspeople about overdraft protection for checks and how to
arrange for it, or informing them of simple business tax deductions such as for
new equipment. Of course, if such information proves to be useful,ð trust would be enhanced and future contacts
made more likely.
Resources To Provide
business center should have a wide range of information and skills to offer the
small businessperson Ò or prospective businessperson. It is not possible to
provide a full list of the possibilities, however, the general topics for the
business center could include:
Starting a Small Business
How to Write a Business
Plan and Why
Signing a Lease Ò
Dealing with Traditional
Marketing Ò developing a
product, pricing it, promoting it
ðððððð A center
that that might well serve as a model for MarylandÌs International Corridor is
the Washington Heights and Inwood Development Center (WHIDC) in New York City.
The organization supports a business community similar in many ways to the
International Corridor. It is a community mainly of immigrants from the
Dominican Republic. And so language and culture are major barriers. WHIDC often
provides help as simple as translating business documents, leases or licensing
forms. Like MarylandÌs International Corridor, many of the businesses involved
are micro businesses with owners that have little, if any, business experience
or education. WHIDC has found that their most effective outreach has been their
micro-loan program. This is the Ïcarrot on the stickÓ which brings clients to
them. Word of mouth has been their most effective form of advertising. Once the
business people are involved and have a measure of trust it is easier to
provide the advice, support and mentoring which are the goals of the center.
WHIDC is funded in part by the Empire State Development Corporation, and in
part by the private sector.
ðððððð We should
note that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has offices in Maryland,
and it provides information and training. Unfortunately, the main office is in
Baltimore and the satellite office is in Cumberland. These are, of course, beyond
the reach of the hundreds of businesspeople in MarylandÌs International
Corridor. Perhaps one long-term goal should be to have the SBA set up a
satellite office in the Corridor.
The International Corridor Small Business Center
ðððððð We think
that a center similar to WHIDC can and should be established in MarylandÌs
International Corridor. Because it will contribute to business success in all
three of the areaÌs jurisdictions, we think it should be supported by the three
and perhaps in some way be linked with the Tri-Jurisdictional Commission Ò as
well, of course, as the Maryland International Corridor CDC or its successor
ðððððð Of course,
funds will be required to set up a small business center for the Corridor. We
think that the Small Business Administration could provide up to half of its
operating funds and state and local funds could be added to that, or grants
could be pursued. The economic development offices of Montgomery and Prince
GeorgeÌs Counties might well be asked to contribute funds and expertise.
ðððððð A small
business support center could, we are convinced, provide important support for
Corridor entrepreneurs and could make a significant difference to the entire
economic vitality of the area. Its success would depend not only on the quality
of the support provided, but also on the ability of the center to develop a
relationship with the community. It would initially require a considerable
outreach effort to develop the needed relationship. For businesspeople who are
not used to seeking advice, a Ïsales jobÓ would be necessary. The best chance
for success would be through in-person visits to local business people who
could offer Ïquick tipsÓ related to business success.
ðððððð Once the
center established access and developed a reputation as a useful source of
information, tools, and perhaps loan facilitation, the direction of the contact
flow would probably shift. Of course, in an area such as the International
Corridor, new businesses are constantly being opened; and the newcomers would
need outreach as well.
potential for the proposed small business center is so great that, led by the
core group of businesspeople (discussed in the section on organizing), the
chances of realizing this significant step forward seems quite high. A
successful center will enhance the success of the Corridor, and it in turn will
enhance other projects (e.g., the Purple Line) and have a positive impact upon
the people who live and work in and near this important area of Maryland
ðððððð This report proposes a range of issues and possibilities for
MarylandÌs International Corridor.ð This
area has many assets and much to offer businesspeople, residents, and visitors.
There is great richness, diversity, creativity, and energy. Because of these
assets, we are convinced that the Corridor has a very positive future with the potential to become a prosperous business
community enhancing the lives of entrepreneurs, employees, and residents, as well
as customers and other visitors from around the Washington Metropolitan area
ðððððð The University of Maryland has
demonstrated a commitment to work with Corridor businesspeople and others
towards enhancing the areaÌs success. The commitment began in 1996 with the
first study Ò indeed, conceptualization Ò of the International Corridor. It
will continue in the years to come.
ðððððð Of course, university faculty members and
students can only serve as allies. It will take the hard work of area
businesspeople, political leaders, residents, and others to make our vision
become a reality. The
campus-community (Ïtown and gownÓ) partnership will contribute to the shared
goals. Let the journey to the envisioned future begin.
Bibliography and Notes
Bonilla, Frank. 1996.
ÏChanging the Americas from within the United States,Ó The Latino Review of
Books 2/1, Spring, pp. 2-4.
Burayidi, Michael A.,
ed. 2001. Downtowns: Revitalizing the Centers of Small Urban Communities. New
Center for Community
Change. 2002. Getting Ahead: New Approaches to Generating Jobs and
Opportunities for Residents of Low Income Communities. Washington, DC, Center
for Community Change.
Goetz. 1992. Effectiveness of the Main Street Program in Evaluating Success.
San Francisco, The Making Cities Livable Conference.
Langley Park Project.
1996. MarylandÌs International Corridor: 1996 Working Paper. College Park, MD,
Urban Studies and Planning Program.
National Trust for
Historic Preservation. 2002. National Mainstreet Center.
United States Small
Business Administration. 2002. Principles of Federal Government Support for
Microenterprise Development. http://www.sba.gov/microenter/policypaperaugust2000.pdf.
Washington, DC, SBA.