Nevada delegation heads to China to mine for investors

Updated: 2014-03-13 12:56

By Amy He in New York (China Daily USA)

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As Las Vegas ramps up efforts to attract even more Chinese tourists in the next few years, a Las Vegas economic delegation will be visiting several major Chinese cities for a 12-day trip to promote southern Nevada as a global business destination for Chinese investment.

The Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance (LVGEA), a non-profit organization heads to China on March 15 to visit Hong Kong, Taipei, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and other cities.

"When you travel around the world and you tell people you're from Las Vegas, they know Las Vegas as a global tourism destination. What our organization is charged with doing is informing the world we are a global business destination," Tom Skancke, president and CEO of LVGEA, told China Daily.

"We do more than tourism and conventions, conferences, and business meetings here. We also have a business community that, for a number of years, has just not been promoted globally," he said.

The LVGEA is looking to interest Chinese investors in technology, manufacturing and real estate, according to Skancke, and get across to them that the state is "highly competitive" for those sectors because of a relaxed regulatory environment.

"We have some of the lowest taxes in the country, we provide a really good - and oftentimes better - business environment than our surrounding states," Skancke said.

Clark County, located in southern Nevada, has been a foreign trade zone for the last 15 years, which might be attractive to Chinese exporters who are looking to bring their goods in and out of the US. The only time taxes are paid is if a product is sold in the US, and import and exports remain tax-free, according to Skancke.

The real estate market in southern Nevada, which was hit especially hard in the wake of the recession with some of the most home foreclosures in the US, is becoming especially appealing to the Chinese investor because of its affordability, Skancke said.

"Las Vegas was the city that was hit the worst by the recession as it relates to real estate. The opportunities here are abundant and the prices are still very good, although there's been a little bit of increase in the prices over the last year of real estate," he said. In the long run, Skancke added, Las Vegas is still a very affordable market.

Chinese investment in Las Vegas real estate has been abundant. According to a June report by Chicago-based trade group National Association of Realtors, the five markets of greatest interest to potential Chinese buyers were Las Vegas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Irvine, California, and Colorado.

There is interest especially in single and multi-family homes as well as condo complexes and high-rise structures. "Because of these opportunities that are here, we are a great location that type of investment. It just depends upon what the individual is looking for and how long of an investment they're making," Skancke said.

LVGEA's upcoming trip to China, which is its fourth in the last two years, is one that Skancke hopes will help focus conversation away from Las Vegas as being solely a tourism center, though tourism still plays a big part in southern Nevada's economy.

Despite making up a small percentage of overall visitors to Las Vegas, the state has seen Asian tourism surge over the last few years. Asians and Asian Americans accounted for 3 percent of visitors to Las Vegas in 2010, but that tripled to 9 percent in 2012, according to visitor information compiled by Las Vegas' official tourism board.

"Las Vegas is one of the top five brands in the world, next to Nike, Coke, IBM and Apple," Skancke said. "We're in good company, but we're known as a tourism destination and part of what we're doing is we are going to China to inform people that we're a business destination as well."

 Nevada delegation heads to China to mine for investors

A delegation from Nevada is looking beyond the highrises and big skies to find new investment partners in China. Kelly Zhang / China Daily

(China Daily USA 03/13/2014 page2)