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Plans Set For China Trip To Promote Vermont EB-5 Program

Herb Swanson

On September 21, Governor Peter Shumlin and other state officials will accompany the owner of Jay Peak on a nine-day Asian trade mission in hopes of secure money for a series of projects in the Northeast Kingdom.

The effort is centered on the federal EB-5 program, which offers Green Card status to foreigners who invest a minimum of $500,000 in approved projects.

The trip, which also includes Commerce Secretary Lawrence Miller has been organized by Jay Peak owner Bill Stenger.  The group will visit three of China’s largest cities and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.  In each place they’ll host three daily presentations open to investors and investment advisors.

Stenger says he expects anywhere from 50 to 200 attendees at each event.  Because the main attraction is the Green Card’s permanent resident status that comes with the EB-5 investments, Stenger says the trips planners are getting the word out to prospective investors by contacting immigration lawyers.

“There are 15,000 immigration attorneys in the United States, many of whom have clients in Asia,” he explains. "We try to reach out to them and let them know that we’re going to be there."

Stenger says his team will be pitching several Northeast Kingdom projects in which he has a financial stake, including a planned expansion at Burke Mountain, the revitalization of downtown Newport and opening a subsidiary of the Korean company AnC Bio.  The projects range in size from $70 million to $120 million.

According to Stenger, investors scrutinize how their money will be used – in fact the majority will visit Vermont before they commit – but the Green Card, which is available to investors, their spouses and children under 21 is the trump card that makes it much easier to seal the deal.

“There’s no doubt that the real, foremost reason that they are looking at this program is because of the Green Card,” says Stenger.  “For many, many people who invest in this program, they do so to be supportive of their children who may already be in this country in a college or university and who may wish to live here after they graduate.”

Stenger says he expects to return with some commitments, and more to follow.  Without EB-5 investments, he says the projects would not happen.

There are hundreds of EB-5 Regional Centers in the U.S. vying for foreign investors and Stenger says the Governor’s presence on the trip will give Vermont’s EB-5 program a competitive advantage.

Vermont has the only state run regional center in the country.

For their part, state officials say their job is not to promote Stenger’s projects but to create interest in Vermont and the EB5 program as a good investment.

“The bigger mission for the state part of it is to broadcast the value of Vermont itself, not just to this current crop of investors but to that professional community who have to help people over and over again,” says Commerce Secretary Lawrence Miller.

The state is picking up the cost of Governor Shumlin’s security detail for the trip, but Stenger says Jay Peak is paying all other expenses, which will amount to about $75,000.

That money can be recovered as administrative costs if the projects are successful in attracting EB5 investments.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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