uring the past decade, as though in anticipation of its hosting of the 1996 Olympics, Atlanta has boomed as never before. In 1994 alone the city's economy generated an impressive 65,000 new jobs--and that was down somewhat from the 80-100,000 generated during each year of the 1980s.
Among the many Asians who rode the crest of Atlanta's economic boom is Hong Kong immigrant Hansak Chan. For two generations Chan's family owned a jewelry manufacturer in Hong Kong. When the late President Nixon opened relations with mainland China in 1972, Chan's family foresaw a rising U.S. demand for Chinese products--whether made in Hong Kong, Taiwan or China. They sent Chan to Los Angeles in 1972 to establish a regional distribution outlet. As their U.S. distribution grew, Chan searched for good locations for other outlets, He discovered Atlanta in 1974 and set up there the next year. Chan was deeply impressed with Atlanta's lifestyle, geographical location and vigorously expanding economy and transferred the center of his jewelry operation to Atlanta. Only the manufacturing facilities remain in Hong Kong.
"I'm in Atlanta because I know I'm going to be able to reach the whole country's market from here," Chan says. "From a strictly geographical position, this is a perfect location for a distribution network."
In the late 1980s Chan was eager to test his entrepreneurial skills and the potential of his new home city. He decided to make his first venture a Chinese restaurant. In 1990 he opened the Oriental Pearl Restaurant in the Asian-dominated Buford Corridor. Hardly five years later, it is now Atlanta's largest Chinese eatery. Its success startled Chan.
"In the beginning, the restaurant was for fun," Chan says. "I really didn't expect it to be so fun. It's more than what I had planned. When the high-rollers are entertaining they now come to my restaurant. When Coca-Cola executives are entertaining foreign guests, they come to my restaurant."
The vitality that the Asian influx has created on old southern soil is nowhere more visible than along the Buford Highway Corridor. One of the city's traditional thoroughfares, Buford Highway originates beneath Atlanta's downtown skyscrapers, threads north through the mid-town section and sweeps well beyond the city limits. About five miles north of Atlanta proper, as the road bisects the suburban towns of Doraville and Chamblee, it becomes the Buford Corridor. Page 5