Chinese investors get some tips on LA

By Lia Zhu in San Francisco | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-05-25 10:37

Chinese investors need assistance from the private sector as well as from the government, especially when they start their first project in California, an industry insider said.

"There's a great amount of interest and financial capacity in China. But there was less awareness about opportunities of foreign investment," said Steve Olson, chairman of World Trade Center Los Angeles.

"Here it is different from China obviously, getting to know government officials is important but not sufficient; you also have to have experienced and capable private advisers, lawyers, accountants and bankers," he said. "They are all important parts of the process in the US."

As a founding director of Select USA, he said the program gave him "greater appreciation for the importance of those services to facilitate foreign investment".

When he started Select USA in 2011, there was a relative lack of experience for many Chinese investors, he said.

"Some companies had been here for some time but, by and large, most of the investors were new to the US market and there was a steep learning curve," said Olson, who is also a partner at O'Melveny & Myers law firm.

When he came back to Los Angeles in 2013, he realized they needed the same type of services there, which is home to the US' largest county economy, with an annual GDP of more than $664 billion.

There were a number of organizations promoting exports at that time, but there was never an organization focused on helping foreign direct investment into the Greater Los Angeles region, he recalled.

Select LA, a summit that aims to address foreign companies' unique needs in navigating the business channels and discovering opportunities in Los Angeles, has been held the past two years, as a spin off of Select USA. This year's summit will be held on June 14-15.

The summit will put together panels of leaders in different industries including entertainment, bioscience, aerospace and real estate. Their topics will range from Silicon Beach and LA's emerging hubs to infrastructure and the role of advanced transportation.

Speakers will talk about what a large consumer market the US is, what legal protections are available for their intellectual property, the rule of law, well-developed financial infrastructure and how relatively easy it is to obtain capital and financing for projects, said Olson.

They will also talk about challenges they face, share the lessons they have learned and the things they wish they'd known when they first came here, he said.

"Chinese investors are more and more experienced as time has gone on," said Olson. "We host visiting delegations from China nearly every other week, we help them understand where the opportunities are, and help them identify the people to partner with to achieve their goals."

Last year, the summit hosted the head of LA airport, the head of LA Port, the head of the Port of Long Beach and the head of LA Metro speaking on a panel.

"Each of those individuals controls an enormous budget and they are constantly looking for companies to partner with to help them achieve their mission," said Olson.

"Now it's not easy to succeed in the US because it is a very competitive market, but the opportunities are great — it's the largest fully-developed consumer market in the world. As we say, you must bring your A-game to succeed here, but we can help with that," he said.

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