State official, businessmen head to China for two-week trip to find investors

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.

Many of the features and rides in the new Jay Peak water park are heated by capturing waste heat from an ice arena.

Many of the features and rides in the new Jay Peak water park are heated by capturing waste heat from an ice arena. Photo courtesy of Jay Peak Resort.

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.

Bill Stenger, owner of Jay Peak and Burke Mountain resorts, shows lawmakers plans for development in the Northeast Kingdom on Feb. 5, 2013,at Jay Peak. Photo by Nat Rudarakanchana

Bill Stenger, owner of Jay Peak and Burke Mountain resorts, shows lawmakers plans for development in the Northeast Kingdom on Feb. 5, 2013, at Jay Peak. Photo by Nat Rudarakanchana

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.

Follow Nat on Twitter @natrudy

Comments

  1. Bruce Post :

    “A project less publicized than Jay Peak, DreamLife plans to build 10 DreamLife Retirement Resorts, or luxury housing for the elderly, in towns across Vermont, projecting that each building complex will cost $24 million, according to its website.”

    “… luxury housing for the elderly…”? Could this be one reason why the Gov won’t raise taxes on the wealthy?

  2. It would be fascinating — and probably entertaining — to get copies of the actual brochure-level marketing material they’ve created to “pitch” Vermont.

    • John Perry :

      here’s a link to their website. I wonder how many Vermonters will be able to afford to live in these? Or maybe just be servants? Upmountain, Downmountain.
      https://www.dreamlifeeb5.com/index.php

      • Thank you, John. This is even more surreal than I expected.

  3. Should we be selling green cards to the rich and deporting the poor? If we’re going to sell green cards, how about selling them to engineers, artists, and entrepreneurs?

  4. Great! Let’s keep on destroying Vermont’s environment and rural character for the benefit of the rich. Jay Peak was the first entity in Vermont to blast off a portion of a mountain top and the onslaught continues. Don’t worry about all those additional carbon emissions. So what if Vermont is losing extremely important forest cover for the first time in well over a century. We have every right to cause the sixth great extinction. Don’t ask if this development contributes to sustainability. How truly sad.

    If anyone would like to show the excellent movie “Hooked on Growth” (www.growthbusters.org) in their community just let me know and I will send you a copy. plumb.george at gmail.com

    • Kathy Leonard :

      George, an alternate view of economy – one Vermont seems to have forgotten of late – can be found in Doug Tompkins’s THE NEXT ECONOMY – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jv-JXrSLsWE (You won’t be sorry you watched it).

  5. Page Guertin :

    Oh goody! Ten Florida-style high-rise luxury retirement communities in Vermont designed with only the wealthy in mind! But of course there will be lots of service jobs for the poor to take, serving the rich as always. Just what Vermont needs!! And how, exactly, will these resorts benefit the communities where they’re located? The $500K that wealthy foreigners pay to buy their green cards will go to the building of the resorts, but very likely not to the maintenance. I’m sure DreamLife will get lots of tax breaks for locating wherever they do, which means the local people will bear most of the property tax burden. They’ll use lots of resources – fuel, electricity, etc so we’ll have to beef up our electric grid and fuel transport systems to support them, the burden of which is borne by all the ratepayers. Do you think they’ll buy local food? Probably not – it can be shipped in from Mexico a lot cheaper. And from the looks of the samples on DreamLife’s website, they’ll be a major blight on the landscape. But there are always those service jobs….

  6. Please don’t let the word “luxury” confuse you.
    We are building Assisted Living Centers to help keep seniors out of Nursing Homes as long as possible, which cost the state and individual families much more per person. “Luxury” only refers to the level of services available, not the cost, so residents are treated with care and respect, and so we can create the large number of jobs required by the EB5 program. Jobs for massage therapists, hairdressers, recreation coordinators, cooks, housekeepers and even mechanics to service motorized wheelchairs.
    All the facilities will use the latest in environmental technology including geo-thermal heating, and advanced pre-fab construction techniques and we are striving for the highest level of LEED certification. For the most part, the sites selected are in the center of towns in land currently vacant or occupied by abandoned buildings. These types of Seniors, usually in their 80s and 90s, like being close to all services, including family doctors and easily accessible shopping without having to be transported. Many of the jobs will be skilled positions and we will be working with local area schools to develop a diploma course on elderly caregiving, requiring 8 months of studying and certification, modelled on similar courses offered in the province of Quebec.
    Each building will be designed to blend into the local area, and will not be more than 4 storeys. The facilities will also offer home care and meals on wheels, to assist seniors to stay in their own homes as long as possible.
    Some of the facilities will also provide safe and supportive units for those seniors suffering from Alzheimers and Dementia, but who do not need bed care. All facilities will have daycare for staff members with young children.

    We will market Vermont throughout the Northeastern U.S. as a safe and senior friendly place to move to, with its clean air and wonderful scenery. These people will spend their money in Vermont for the benefit of Vermonters.

    We could have started our business in any state, but chose Vermont because of all of these factors, and because the state is so supportive of the EB5 program. Plus their high standards and rigorous oversight helps to assure Investors that the projects will be successful.

    As far as the EB5 program itself, we hear the criticism about people being allowed to come to the U.S. just because they have money. 150 years ago, the U.S. welcomed strong people who worked hard to come and help open the country up with just their labor. 30 years ago, highly skilled workers and professionals were welcomed for their technical skills, which helped fuel the “knowledge economy”. Today, with banks not lending and capital being scarce, Investors are welcomed to help create jobs for Americans who have been so badly hurt since 2008. The money from each Investor must create at least 10 jobs for Americans, within 2.5 years, or the Investor loses their green card and must leave the country immediately.
    We are excited about Vermont and the opportunity to provide a valuable and necessary service, which is urgently needed.
    Sincerely,
    Phil Mooney
    DreamLife EB5

    • Kathy Leonard :

      Phil Mooney: “We will market Vermont throughout the Northeastern U.S. as a safe and senior friendly place to move to, with its clean air and wonderful scenery. These people will spend their money in Vermont for the benefit of Vermonters.”

      Question for Mr. Mooney: Will people living in the vicinity of these ‘high-end’ assisted living facilities — those people who will be doing the work necessary to operate them — “Jobs for massage therapists, hairdressers, recreation coordinators, cooks, housekeepers and even mechanics to service motorized wheelchairs” — have an opportunity to access care when they are in need of assisted living?

      If you were to offer several brackets of affordability that would enable those who do the work to have a place for their upward years – in addition to the affluent out-of-state folks who are your target demographic – this could be a win-win. Otherwise, I’m afraid it looks to me like Vermont would simply provide ambiance and a low pay scale for you – but not much for what Vermonters in the NEK need. Can you propose something more inclusive?

    • Under new management in a big way, huh, Phil?

      What follows is from 7 Days last year:

      Contrary to the EB-5 program’s mission, one firm “certified” by Vermont and featured on the state’s website appears to be a front company for a Canadian immigration firm in the business of selling visas.

      Promotional materials for the company, DreamLife, suggest it plans to build four $24 million senior living facilities in Montpelier, Rutland, White River Junction and Newport — each replete with bowling alleys and bistros.

      But company president Richard Parenteau readily admits that DreamLife is only entering the senior living market in order to hock EB-5 visas — and collect $17,500 in administrative fees. Parenteau’s other enterprise, Québec-based Can-Am Immigration, claims on its website to have been “instrumental in securing 25,000 work permits and/or green cards in the United States alone.”

      “We have to do something with investors’ money, so what do we do with it? That’s why we decided to go into retirement homes,” Parenteau explains. “We decided to go into an industry where there’s a big need now.”

      Source link: http://www.7dvt.com/2012vermont-eb-5-visas

  7. Page Guertin :

    Mr. Mooney,

    First of all, it is just plain wrong to sell a path to citizenship to someone with lots of money when there are thousands, if not millions, of people who have worked and slaved and risked their lives to get in to this country – and whose labor is vital to our construction and food-producing industries, among others – who are being deported or threatened with deportment. There are also many, many qualified people who have waited years for the opportunity to enter the US but are denied because of quotas, other requirements, and the inefficiency of the system. The whole EB-5 program is ethically contemptible.

    Secondly, we don’t need more seniors in their 80′s and 90′s our communities. We need young active families who will participate in their community schools, churches, local governments and other organizations, and support local businesses and food producers. Seniors are great – I am one – but most of them don’t contribute a lot, especially if they are imported from outside the state or the town. And I’d like to see the Vermont community where a senior can get to their family doctor and shopping without transportation – we can’t even do that in Montpelier.

    Third, your letter sounds as if you already have a track record of providing all these wonderful luxury (not a confusing term) “high-end residences,” but as yet there are no such facilities built and operating that actually prove that DreamLife can do what you say you’re going to do – it sounds too good to be true and it probably is. (The video on your website shows a high-rise resort in the middle of the woods – are you saying that’s false advertising?) Vermont towns have a history of giving huge tax breaks to anyone and everyone who says they’re going to provide jobs, and you will undoubtedly expect the same breaks – which means that the local people will pay all the property taxes associated with the costs of services required by your operations. As a consequence, as has happened in the ski towns, the people who are employed there in your service jobs won’t be able to afford to live in the communities where they work.

    Fourth, according to your website you expect to sell 320 green cards at $500K apiece, totalling $160 million, for which you will provide 3200 service jobs – a pretty lame output for that amount of money.

    And fifth, how the heck does Vermont get designated as a “targeted employment area,” defined as “a rural area or an area that has experienced high unemployment of at least 150 percent of the national average.” According to your website, “Vermont’s economy comprises a broad range of industries. This industry diversification results in a healthy economy, stable employment and a better ability to weather economic cycles.” And we have the lowest unemployment in the country. WTF??

  8. Jim Barrett :

    All transactions are deemed SECRET with these so called green card deals……..WHY? We have government involvement in this (our taxes) and the government is telling us HANDS OFF! No government should be working with any foreigners and telling them all transactions are secret. Throw the bums out of office!

  9. Fred Woogmaster :

    Unbridled capitalism – you gotta love it! Strip mine the land and bring in the foreign investors to take care of our precious seniors. The EB5 program provides capital for the purpose of generating profit. The public policy embedded in the granting of “Americanship” to foreign investors – is obscene.

  10. Foreign multi-millionaires from East Asia paying $500,000 to get first dibs at a US visa and retire in Vermont? They made their money selling us manufactured goods?

    Stenger’s “free-money, foreigners-come-first” EB-5 projects will a boon for Stenger & Co, trickle down crumbs for everyone else doing mostly low-paid menial work.

    Is there a federal program the State of Vermont does NOT like, if federal subsidies are the lure?

    The same is true with renewable energy subsidies which cause the building of RE facilities that produce high-cost energy that make Vermont’s economy less competitive.

    More jobs in the RE sector, less in other sectors, for a net LOSS of jobs, i.e., less RE means more jobs.

    In 2012, the SPEED program paid $5.06 million for 3.33 million kWh, for an average of 17.2 c/kWh, largely because multi-millionaires receive 30 c/kWh for PV solar energy for 25 years.

    It was originally 27 c/kWh, was deemed too high so it was reduced to 24 c/kWh, but then it was raised to 30 c/kWh, even though solar panel prices had gone down. Does not seem rational. When I read it, I could not believe it.
    http://vermontspeed.com/speed-monthly-production/

    Grid prices are less than 5 c/kWh, Hydro Quebec and Vermont Yankee about 6 c/kWh, all CO2-free.

    An overpayment of (17.2 – 6)/17.2 x $5.06 = $3.29 million to reduce about 3.33 million lbs of CO2, or about $1/lb, or about $2,204.6/metric ton. That must be highest cost ever. Only a Keystone-cop government could come up with such a farcical Rube Goldberg scheme; Klein & Co are defending the SPEED program!

    GMP claims to be all about renewables, but it recently entered into an agreement with the Seabrook nuclear power plant to buy 60 MW of steady, 24/7/365, CO2-free nuclear energy at 4.66 cents/kWh. Smart move, now that Lowell has become a PR disaster and a financial fiasco. See URLs.

    http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/169521/wind-turbine-energy-capacity-less-estimated

    http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/61309/lowell-mountain-wind-turbine-facility-vermont

    • John Greenberg :

      No Willem. You’re a slow learner. The power is not “24/7/365, CO2-free nuclear energy.”

      First, it’s 16/7, not 24/7. We’ve had this discussion before, and I cited my source. It’s in testimony in the VY case at the PSB.

      Second, nuclear power is not CO2-free. Milling, mining, enriching, fabricating and transporting nuclear fuel all produce C02, as does building and decommissioning plants, and removing and storing their waste.

      • John,

        The real issue is nuclear energy is steady, 24/7/365, low-cost, near-CO2 free, whereas Lowell’s energy is variable, intermittent, i.e., junk energy, high cost and only partially CO2-free, not allowed on the NEK grid without a $10.5 million facility to clean it up.

        Lowell Voltage Regulating Facility:

        Lowell wind energy varies with the cube of the wind speed; double the wind speed, eight times the energy. According to ISO-NE, because the variations of the wind energy voltage are too excessive for the NEK grid, a 27.5 MVAR voltage regulating facility needs to be installed by GMP. It will be located adjacent to the Jay Peak 46 kV Switching Station, housed in a 40’ x 68’ x 45’5” tall building, surrounded by 70’ x 90’ x 8’ tall fencing.

        The voltage regulating is performed by a bank of synchronous-condenser systems, consisting of motors operating at 3,600 rpm and at no load, 24/7/365 (high-speed idling, year-round), plus electrical systems to modify the variable wind energy by adding or subtracting reactive energy to satisfy below-criteria voltages on the 115 kV transmission system. The system will cost about $10.5 million and be operational by the end of 2013. During all of 2013, Lowell will operated in curtailed mode.

        S-C systems have energy losses of about 3%, i.e., 97% efficient, plus the facillity has its own levelized (Owning+O&M) costs which will adversely affect the project economics.

        http://psb.vermont.gov/sites/psb/files/248j/2013/02.%20Petition.pdf

        http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/169521/wind-turbine-energy-capacity-less-estimated

        IWT’s require mining milling, etc. and blasting virgin ridge lines that will NEVER be restored.

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