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The first component of the protocol used to evaluate the effectiveness of the present business relocation regulations was to directly ask those who administer these programs to offer suggestions for improvement. This was accomplished by providing a questionnaire to multiple entities operating within the current legislation. This sample includes federal agencies, state transportation agencies and right-of-way professionals.
Federal Agency Surveys
Projects Management Institute, Inc. completed a study of the present relocation payments for non-residential displacees authorized in the Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR Part 24 Sections 303 and 304). The federal government directly causes displacement through its activities, and also provides substantial support for other public projects that cause displacement. To capture responses from agencies working in various branches of the federal government, surveys were sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. General Services Administration, Housing and Urban Development, Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, and National Park Service.
Representatives from the eight agencies were sent a two-page questionnaire. This questionnaire requested statistical information, including the number of businesses displaced by the agency and the agency's ability to pay greater benefits than those authorized by 49 CFR Part 24 Sections 303 and 304. A number of questions were also included to elicit opinions from the agency representatives about the benefits authorized in the regulations, and query if any changes were warranted.
State Agency Surveys
The various state transportation agencies were also sent questionnaires regarding their present relocation payments for non-residential displacees as authorized in the Code of Federal Regulations (24 CFR 303 and 304). As part of the study, representatives from the Department of Transportation in each of the 50 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico were contacted. Responses were received from all agencies.
Each respondent completed a two-page questionnaire (Exhibit A) that requested statistical information, including the number of businesses displaced by the agency and the agency's ability to pay greater benefits than those authorized by 24 CFR 303 and 304. A number of questions were also included to elicit opinions from agency representatives about the benefits authorized in the aforementioned regulations, and to garner suggestions from the state DOTs for any amendments to the regulations they believed should be considered.
Right-of-Way Professionals Surveys
Right-of-way professionals from a variety of agencies and consulting firms belong to the International Right-of-Way Association (IRWA). The IRWA is organized around a number of functional committees, one of those being the relocation committee. A questionnaire was sent to the members of this committee to solicit their opinions on the business relocation process. Twelve IRWA Relocation Committee members responded to the questionnaire.
Businesses that have actually been displaced on a project possess extensive specific, anecdotal information on the effects of the displacement. Using information provided by cooperating agencies, a number of displaced businesses were contacted to gain their opinions on the relocation process and the services offered them by the displacing agency.
This study does not presume to present a true statistical analysis, since the group of parcels reviewed in this report is not a true "random sample," as defined in statistical work. Therefore, the use of percentages in this report should be viewed as representing general tendencies rather than a precise statistical value.
* In an attempt to determine the post move effect of displacement, businesses in California and Florida that had moved and then ceased operation were also pursued. These states were chosen because of the number of such situations.
The Business Owner Questionnaire (Appendix II) was developed to solicit information on numerous levels. First, the questionnaire sought to gauge a business owner's overall experience with the displacing agency (i.e., level of interaction with their agent, the agent's knowledge and experience, the agent's willingness to assist, etc.). The second level of questioning was designed to determine whether the business owner had knowledge of the types of assistance available, and whether he/she had pursued the various assistance opportunities currently available under the statutes. A third level of questions was designed to determine whether the financial assistance available to the business owner was adequate to allow the displaced business to be successfully relocated and operational in its new location.
Other questions attempted to assess whether the expenses actually incurred by the business owner were reimbursed by the agency. Specifically, the survey sought information on whether there were expenses incurred due to modifications at the relocation site required by various codes, such as building codes and if so, the total cost of the code-related modifications. The questionnaire asked business owners if they believed the payments received were adequate to move and reestablish their businesses and whether the businesses experienced an increase or decrease in business after the completion of the move.
The section "Business Interview Findings - State-by-State" discusses the results from the interviews. Recommendations for each group will follow the presentation of results.