NY Wheel reels in Chinese EB-5 investors

Updated: 2014-07-25 11:44

By Adelina Zhang in New York (China Daily USA)

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The New York Wheel, an observation Ferris wheel planned for Staten Island that will be the tallest of its kind in the world, has so far received $150 million from foreign investors, the vast majority from China in exchange for green cards.

The 630-foot-wheel project has attracted 300 Chinese investors, at least 90 percent of the foreign investors involved, through the EB-5 visa program, which gives foreign investors a temporary visa to the US, said Richard Marin, president and CEO of New York Wheel LLC.

"We go where the money is," said Marin. "There are a larger number of entrepreneurs with that kind of wealth in China than anywhere else. By far the largest single source of supply - those who seem to find value in investment like this in exchange for a green card and where money is available - is from China."

Marin went on a two-week trip to Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Wuhan, and Shanghai with CanAm Enterprises LLC representatives in March to attract potential investors.

The EB-5 program provides foreign investors and their families temporary visas if they invest at least $500,000 and green cards if they create at least 10 jobs for US workers within two years through their investment.

The wheel project, which was approved on Monday by the US Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) as an EB-5 investment, has received $500,000 from each of the 300 Chinese investors, said Marin.

"What we're doing is taking advantage of a US program that was approved by Congress almost unanimously," Marin said. "It is a widely supported program to create jobs in the US by using foreign capital and making green cards available to people who want to put foreign capital to work in this country to help build jobs. We had the opportunity presented to us to get attractive financing, so we used it."

The USCIS oversees the EB-5 program and determines which projects qualify for this program. Approval usually takes 10 to 12 months.

Marin said that it only took six months to get the wheel project approved. It helped that they were partnered with CanAm Enterprises, which has 25 years experience in promoting private and government immigration investments.

"The reason why this project sold out so quickly - and why this is such an attractive project - is because it is partnered with CanAm, which is the best in the business," he said. "When they endorse a project, based on their flawless track record, investors know that it is a solid investment."

What attracted investors so quickly and secured speedy government approval, according to Marin, were the sponsorship from CanAm, assurances that investors would get visas approved, an economically viable project that has the ability to pay back debt and location in a high-priority area where there is a need for jobs.

"All of those elements show that this is why the immigration service would want to push for investors," Marin said. "And this is also what investors look for because they want to get their green cards and make a profit."

Clare Chen, manager of foreign sales and marketing for CanAm, wrote in an email interview: "We believe the New York Wheel meets the highest standards of the EB-5 Program and will create thousands of qualifying jobs in the region."

"We were confident that," Chen continued, "with the completion guarantees, fixed-price contracts, all of the financing in place and the design-build team behind it, which is the same team behind the London Eye, that the project would be completed on time and on budget."

According to job studies commissioned by New York Wheel, the project will create about 4,200 jobs, including 300-350 construction jobs and 400-600 permanent jobs.

The Wheel is expected to begin construction in December 2014 and plans to open in early 2017. Its 36 capsules on the wheel, each carrying 40 passengers, are expected to receive 30,000 riders a day, 4.5 million a year.

At 630 feet high, the New York Wheel will be 20 stories taller than the 443-foot London Eye, and also top similar Ferris wheels in Nanchang (520 feet), Singapore (541) and Las Vegas (550). Developers in Dubai are planning a wheel 689 feet tall.

"These types of attractions have been proven to be very popular around the world because NY harbor is a great tourist destination," said Marin. "A lot of people are on the water anyway to visit the Statue of Liberty, so this was the perfect place to put an iconic attraction."

Contact the writer at readers@chinadailyusa.com.

For China Daily

 NY Wheel reels in Chinese EB-5 investors

The New York Wheel has received $150 million from foreign investors through the EB-5 visa program, which gives investors a temporary green card. The Staten Island wheel will become the largest observation wheel in the US and plans to open by early 2017. Provided to China Daily

(China Daily USA 07/25/2014 page2)