Finding common ground across a cultural divide

One of the largest steel producers in the world had $1.8 billion at risk in new investments located at a historically significant site situated directly next to residential subdivisions. After significant upgrades to the site, the steelmaker still needed a renewal of their environmental quality operating permit and resolution of EPA environmental concerns. The neighborhoods involved primarily African-American and Latino populations, with very tight-knit Arabic Yemini Muslim communities living right next to the plant. Elementary and middle schools are directly across the street from the plant, with air quality concerns.

We developed a comprehensive SCMP approach that included extensive community outreach and engagement that resulted in the political context that supported the successful renewal of its operating license. A full range of communication tools were used ranging from ethic newspapers stories and ads, to town hall meetings, community advisory panels, government relations and direct mail.

All our materials for the program were done in English, Spanish and Arabic.  Translators were used at town hall meetings as many attendees are newly arrived immigrants with limited English.

Other community engagements have included an outreach brokering for a Supplemental Environmental Program (SEP) to provide air conditioning and air treatment systems for the neighboring elementary and middle schools.  Air quality concerns – with the symbolism of little children – were a major hurtle to community relations; and we have now turned that concern into support for the client.