Dearborn's Arab flavor a draw for Dow-Kuwaiti HQ
Wednesday July 16, 1:59 pm ET
Dearborn's Arabic flavor destined to be a draw for Dow-Kuwaiti joint-venture headquarters
DETROIT (AP) -- Companies say they choose to build in a business-friendly environment.
Southeast Michigan's Arab-American leaders say being culturally friendly doesn't hurt, either.
They welcomed news Tuesday that Dow Chemical Co. and a Kuwaiti company plan to open a headquarters building near Detroit for a new $11 billion joint venture. The facility will eventually employ 800 people -- many of them with executive-level salaries.
Local business and community leaders say workers coming from the Middle East will find many familiar sights and services: mosques, Arabic restaurants, bilingual schools and butchers who specialize in meat certified as halal, or conforming to Islamic regulations.
Southeast Michigan is home to around 300,000 people of Arab ancestry, some of whom trace their roots back more than a century.
"They won't have a culture shock," said Nasser Beydoun, former director of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce, who now oversees a Qatar-based company that develops American restaurant franchises throughout the Middle East.
"This region is culturally sensitive to Arabs and Arab-Americans."
Dow Chemical and Petrochemical Industries Co. haven't chosen a site for their new K-Dow Petrochemicals headquarters, but say they want access to international flights at Detroit Metropolitan Airport and to schools where the children of employees can speak Arabic.
That puts it near the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, widely considered the capital of Arab-America with its national Arab-American museum, many mosques and scores of Arabic-signed businesses.
"I think if they come down here, they're going to be happy," said Hebah Alwerfalli, marketing and membership director for the Dearborn-based chamber. "Oh my God -- they'll make friends, have dinner. We're a very hospitable people."
Hassan Jaber, executive director of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, said the community wants to be part of promoting Michigan as a place to do business and get its sputtering economy back on track.
"Maybe this Kuwaiti company is only the beginning of ... a huge partnership between Michigan and the Arab world," he said. "I think that Michigan can be the obvious and most qualified in terms of bringing these investments to the U.S."
For Beydoun, Tuesday's announcement by Gov. Jennifer Granholm was a long time in coming.
"We've always said that Michigan is missing opportunities to market itself to the Arab region," said Beydoun, who was born in Beirut but raised in Michigan.
"The Arab world is investing trillions of dollars around the world. Why shouldn't Michigan be a part of that?"
Source: Associated Press
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