Chinese invest in Vermont

Updated: 2013-10-02 11:14

By Yu Wei in San Francisco (China Daily)

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As the governor of America's second-least populous state -Vermont, Peter Shumlin is making a big push to seek investment from the world's most populous country, China.

Shumlin returned on Sunday from leading his first trade mission to China. The delegation of businessmen visited Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, seeking investors to help finance a series of development projects in northern Vermont.

The governor's most powerful tool to lure Chinese investors to put money into the Green Mountain State is the EB-5 (Employment Based Visa, Category 5) program, which grants special visas to foreigners who invest $1 million in the US, or at least $500,000 for specially defined areas, and create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs.

"Governor Shumlin's main goal for the trip was to raise awareness of the Vermont EB-5 Regional Center in support of state project like Jay Peak ski resort and other Vermont projects," said Lawrence Miller,secretary of the Vermont agency of commerce and community development. "We also wanted to raise awareness of Vermont as a business location, center of higher education, and tourism destination."

 Chinese invest in Vermont

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin (right) takes questions from a panel during a business mission in Shanghai on Sept 28. Provided to China Daily

Miller, who was traveling with the governor, said they met with many agents and potential investors and had very good conversations.

He noted that the main advantage of the Vermont EB-5 program is the state actually owns and operates the EB-5 Regional Center. This means that the state government evaluates each project before it's accepted into the regional center and monitors the projects as they proceed.

"The Vermont difference is that the state has a long term interest in having a strong regional center, and that means the state's interest is well aligned with the investor interest in making sure each project is successful in creating jobs and providing a return to the investor, not just benefit to the managers and promoters of the projects," Miller said.

According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, of the 7,641 EB-5 visas issued in fiscal year 2012, 80 percent went to Chinese investors.

Miller said investors from 74 different countries have invested in Vermont EB-5 projects, including many Chinese.

Jay Peak co-owner Bill Stenger, who went along on Shumlin's trip to China, was satisfied with the results of their mission, which he said was specifically aimed at meeting agents and investors and making sure they had complete information about their projects.

Chinese invest in Vermont

Stenger and his partners announced the largest economic revitalization investment project of its type in the history of Vermont last year, which encompassed seven projects in four towns. Stenger, who is currently raising $600 million in EB-5 investments to support the project that he claims will create 10,000 jobs in the area, said he was extremely pleased with the quantity and quality of the people he met in China, as well as the interests of those people have and the value they bring in to his projects.

"We have several very diverse EB-5 projects," he said. "Of the six successful projects that we have already implemented, about 25 percent of our investors come from China."

Stenger said he has already been advised by people in China that Vermont could welcome 50 new Chinese investors by the end of October. "And more we will follow, as we get closer to the end of the year," he added.

"We are going to be aggressively working to enhance foreign trade opportunities in China for Vermont companies. At the minimum, we expect our EB-5 programs to continue to have at least 25 percent of our investors coming from China," Stenger said, adding that he and the governor were already planning their next trip to China sometime in the first quarter of next year.

China has moved up rapidly in the ranks of overseas export markets for Vermont in the past decade. Exports in 2012 reached $584 million, a $552 million increase from $32 million in 2003, making China the state's second-largest export market, according to the latest US-China Business Council report.

"There are many opportunities for trade and business between China and Vermont, and we look forward to expanded partnerships," Miller said, adding that located in the highly developed Northeast of the US, and near the major Canadian cities of Montreal and Toronto, Vermont offers a great location for Chinese companies that want to open US locations.

"We have several Free-Trade Zones which could provide significant advantages for companies that want a US location that serves multiple markets," he said. "This could be especially powerful combined with a location in Shenzhen or the new free trade zone in Shanghai."

(China Daily USA 10/02/2013 page1)