Immigrant Community Shores Ashland Against Recession

By Jared Bowen

Apr. 1, 2011
The Sri Lakshmi Temple in Ashland has expanded as more Hindu residents have moved into the area.

ASHLAND, Mass. — Ashland is mostly quiet, except for the occasional rumble of a train. It’s ordinary here — errands are run, neighbors meet, flags are flown.
“It’s a nice community as well. It’s a good group of people,” said Fafard Real Estate's Tim Long.
In the town where the Boston Marathon once began, lifejust hums along — even in a down economy. Although revenues have dropped slightly, leading to nine layoffs and shortened Town Hall hours, Ashland has weathered the recession well. That's because there's growth here, including a 13 percent jump in population in the last decade.

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Dr. Rohit Janghi has watched that growth.
“When I came to Ashland it was very quaint, small town. Farms, it was somewhat blue collar. Now it’s turning into a white-collar town,” Jangi said.
One aspect of change in Ashland has been a demographic shift. Jangi arrived in Massachusetts to study medicine — and never left.
“When I came to this town there were three families, Indian families. Now, I called and I just found out, nearly 570 Indians in Ashland.”
Indeed, Ashland has become a hub for a sizable Indian population. Dr. Jangi says the area’s technology corridor, with companies like EMC in neighboring Hopkinton and Boston Scientific in Natick, is the draw for Indian immigrants.

“People have come to Ashland, 99 percent are IT. They’re all young people they come to do Master’s, Ph. D, something like that. They’ll get a job and settle down. And Ashland has a lot of condominiums so it’s easy for them to come in,” Jangi said.

They settle, interestingly enough, on America Boulevard — a development of 2,000-square-foot town home condominiums. A third of the units here have been sold to Indian families, who have helped the town to skip past the foreclosure crisis, says Fafard Real Estate’s Tim Long.
“The customers we’ve had in the past few years have been primarily Indian customers. If it were not for them, that customer base would be very thin like the surrounding towns. So I would say that in itself is one of the things that’s kept us thriving here,” Long said.
Thriving — and expanding. Fafard Real Estate continues to build up America Boulevard because units are selling before foundations are even laid.

Downtown Ashland has remained economically stable during economic recession, thanks in part to its new immigrant communities. (Greater Boston)

Families flock here because by all accounts, the burgeoning Indian community has been warmly welcomed in Ashland. 

“There’s a terrific South Indian temple right nearby here in Ashland. The Sri Lakshmi temple. Apparently one of a few in the region. I gotta think that’s a draw,” Long said.
Built in 1986, the elaborate Hindu temple has its own $2 million dollar expansion plans to accomodate its quickly-growing congregation, says temple president Shan Bavanantham.
“The expansion that we are planning is long overdue. The community has grown beyond what was planned at that time,” Bavanantham said. “The Ashland town and the neighboring towns like Framingham and all, they are very tolerant of us.”
The temple draws worshippers from all over New England, and raising money for the expansion has not been difficult — like Ashland itself, the Temple fended off the roots of the recession.
“The quality of life is not changing yet. I think the town administrators are doing their part and we don’t see any big change in that,” Bavanantham said.

Like a bright beacon on a hill, The Sri Lakshmi Temple is most certainly a symbol of unconventional economic prosperity and survival — like Ashland itself.

Follow stories of economic change throughout Massachusetts — and tell us about the stories of economic struggle, change, or growth you see in your community.

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