The Asian American and Asian immigrant movement to the South became a flood in the late 1970s. Many moved from other cities in search of good weather, safer conditions and a lifestyle with fewer headaches than found in Los Angeles, San Francisco or New York.
Word-of-mouth has spread everywhere from Hong Kong to southeast Asian refugee camps that cities like Houston and Atlanta are havens with large Asian communities and better business opportunities than the cities that are already crowded with Asians.
"It used to be that most Chinese from mainland China went to California," says Tseng Chao, director of Atlanta's Chinese Community Center. "They come here now because they can make money. It's not too easy to make money in California. There's too many people."
As with any large movement of people, it is economics that has drawn Asians to what is now becoming an exciting region of the U.S.
ven the slump Houston suffered during the mid-80s turned out to be
a draw for Asian immigrants. By 1986 Houston's oil bust had driven down
property prices to 30% below the U.S. average, giving hard-working
immigrants a chance to buy into the American dream at rock-bottom prices.
Since the early 90s Houston's economy has skyrocketed back to health, giving
these Asian homeowners a substantial equity in their suddenly appreciated
homes with which to collaterize business loans. And Houston's overall boom
has created demand for whatever it is Asians are selling, be it computer
equipment, dry cleaning services or Chinese food.
"When we needed money," La recalls, "the people in the community knew where we could get it, and they would help us that way."
La's parents had operated a restaurant for 20 years in Vietnam, and with many of their former patrons now in Houston, the eatery quickly drew a following. After 10 months he moved it into a larger 5,000-square-foot space. Three years later he opened a second location. Page 3