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Mayor Larry Morrissey, Gary Gorman hope China trip brings capital to Rockford

Mayor Larry Morrissey, Gary Gorman hope China trip brings capital to Rockford

Gorman & Company Inc. is planning to spend $67 million to turn Rockford's Amerock/Ziock building into an Embassy Suites hotel.

In English, her name is Cindy. And she had done her homework.

Before the meeting last month with developer Gary Gorman and Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey, Cindy flew from China to the Midwest. She saw the historic hotel that Gorman & Company Inc. built in Milwaukee at the former Pabst Brewing Co. brewhouse. She visited Rockford's Amerock/Ziock building, where Gorman is planning to spend $67 million to turn the dilapidated downtown factory into an Embassy Suites hotel.

"After the presentation Larry and I made in Shanghai, she came up to us and said, "I'm in," said Gorman, CEO of Gorman & Company.

Cindy is the first of what Gorman hopes are 50 Chinese investors who each will pony up $500,000 for the hotel project in exchange for a visa to live in the U.S.

Gorman and Morrissey traveled to three Chinese cities between July 15-21. They met with potential investors and agents who match wealthy Chinese with projects that can get them a green card through EB-5, a federal immigration program.

Gorman was confident going into the trip, and remained so upon his return.

"It's going to happen," he said. "The variable is how long is it going to take?"

He thinks it will take a couple of months for investors to sign on, and Gorman said he'll return to China at the end of August for more seminars. He wants to have EB-5 investors lined up by fall.

"I'm trying to get the mayor to come, but I'm not sure he will," Gorman said. "U.S. government officials are like rock stars in China."

Morrissey's role was to bring credibility to the project, which must stand up against EB-5 pitches made by developers working in Chicago, New York and other well-known cities. Morrissey said he talked about road projects, the Ingersoll indoor sports center and that Hilton Hotel Group is on board with an Embassy Suites brand for Gorman's hotel.

"I think the meetings went very well with investors," Morrissey said. "We were well received. The market is competitive for EB-5, more so than a few years back.

"And so it helps our offering, it helps Gorman make the case to the investors when you have a public official like myself to explain the project, to explain what the city is doing with respect to our collective assets, the infrastructure investments we're making downtown and as a community."

Three years ago 30 Chinese investors provided $15 million in investment capital through EB-5 for Gorman's Brewhouse Inn & Suites in Milwaukee. That was before interest in the program mushroomed, as U.S. developers discovered they could secure financing in the Far East that banks wouldn't provide.



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