A top state official for foreign investment is seeking new networks and promoting the state’s “EB-5” projects to crowds of investors in China on a two-week trip.
Brent Raymond, who directs the Vermont EB-5 regional center, told VTDigger that he’s mainly promoting two already approved EB-5 projects in the state: the DreamLife retirement resorts project, signed off by Lawrence Miller, the state’s secretary of Commerce and Community Development, in November 2012, and Bill Stenger’s well-known $600 million Jay Peak Resort expansion.
Raymond left Wednesday to attend the Invest in America 2013 Summit and Exhibition from March 15-18 in Shanghai, a major convention which focuses on foreign investment in America and real estate development, mostly in the context of the EB-5 visa program.
Started in 1990, the federal EB-5 program grants green cards to foreign investors who inject $500,000 or more into the nation’s economy and create 10 jobs.
“It’s about marketing the regional center,” said Raymond, referring to Vermont’s position as maintaining the only state-owned and administered body helping foreign investors and Vermont businesses connect over the EB-5 program.
“The 2012 World Wealth report states that the Asia-Pacific geographic region surpassed North America and Europe in high net-worth individuals,” said Raymond. “So it’s just a no-brainer to go over there and market for the projects.”
Since Stenger and DreamLife’s principal Phil Mooney will attend themselves in person. “Obviously, they’re looking to make very direct connections,” Raymond said.
Jay Peak co-owner Stenger told VTDigger that he’d be in China in person for eight full days. He hopes to meet 400 to 500 people along the way, from attorneys and immigration representatives to investors.
Although Jay Peak will shell out about $40,000 in total for the trip, Stenger hopes to identify and benefit by drawing at least 100 possible investors.
“About 20 percent of our investors come from China,” said Stenger, referencing his planned $600 million expansion in the Northeast Kingdom. “It’s a big trip and I think it’s going to be very effective for us.”
Raymond’s travel costs will be borne by DreamLife and Jay Peak. Stenger called the reimbursement a common practice, reasoning that conservative fiscal times made it appropriate for him to pay for the trip, since both the state and Jay Peak benefit from the “good partnership.”
A project less publicized than Jay Peak, DreamLife DreamLife Retirement Resorts plans to build luxury housing for the elderly, in towns across Vermont. Each building complex would cost $24 million; the company plans to build 10 in the state, according to the DreamLife website.
It’s not clear when construction by DreamLife will start, or in which towns. State officials have mentioned previous hiccups and stretches of silence from DreamLife leaders, as Seven Days’ Paul Heintz reported in April 2012.
Raymond doesn’t have a target dollar figure he’d like to secure in promised investments. He said the Invest in America 2013 Summit is more about making a first impression on investors and holding initial meetings prior to rigorous background checks on investors and the source of their funds.
“The Chinese represent 90 percent of EB-5 investment in the nation, followed by South Korea, Taiwan, Iran and Venezuela,” said Raymond. “The Vermont regional center is well-known in China, but still, we’re competing against a couple hundred other regional centers and need to continue to market. This is a group of people we need to be in front of.”
Raymond had originally also hoped to market secondary schools and colleges in Vermont, to Chinese families looking for an American education for their children, but won’t do so on this trip.