Disastrous Effects

Summing Up September 11

For Rhyne, new airport security regulations have forced her to speed up searches for nonairport expansion spots. "We've always had opportunities outside airports, but we're moving more aggressively on those fronts now," she says.

At Gruzen Samton, Kazan says his concern is for the intermediate term. "I'm not worried about six months down the road," he says. "But the general slowdown in business climate, our lack of focus on developing new business, and the diversion of our energies to solving this crisis will have an effect on us for a long time to come. It's going to be a real challenge going forward."

Almost as haunting as his worries about the future are Kazan's regrets for the past-specifically, the past Gruzen Samton lost when its trove of photographs of past projects was lost forever in the ashes. "We're forced to look into the future now," he says. "Because we don't have a past."

Hate Crimes on the Rise

Some businesses had a different kind of fallout from September 11. Within weeks of the attacks, the FBI was investigating more than 40 alleged hate crimes against Arab Americans, people of Middle Eastern descent and Muslim-owned or -operated businesses. Incidents ranged from broken windows and boycotts to arson and homicide.

"It's a tragedy for all Americans, but it's a double tragedy for Arab Americans," says Fuad Sahouri, owner of Sahouri Insurance & Associates in McLean, Virginia, and chair of the Arab American Business and Professional Association, a Washington, DC-based business group. The rash of reported crimes isn't the only outrage, says Sahouri. Many of his new customers are business owners who have been refused insurance service by other agencies. '"[Insurance agents] can tell by their accents that they are recent immigrants, and they don't even return their phone calls to give them quotes," Sahouri says.

The backlash is the worst in Sahouri's 31 years as an Arab American business owner. But it's not the first. Based on experience, he says the best thing entrepreneurs of any ethnic background can do to prevent similar occurrences is to build personal relationships with their local business communities. He acknowledges that it's difficult for busy entrepreneurs to find time to join service organizations, volunteer for social causes and contribute to local charities. But doing so makes it harder for people prone to quick judgments to lump you in with undesirables who share a similar background.

Mark Henricks is Entrepreneur's "Books" and "Smart Moves" columnist.

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This article was originally published in the January 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Disastrous Effects.

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