International trade center could bring the world to North Las Vegas
An artist’s rendering depicts the Huanghai international trade center project being proposed for North Las Vegas.
International trade centers typically don’t come with taglines that describe them as “quirky.” But if North Las Vegas has its way, Huanghai won’t be a typical international trade center.
Depending on the number of foreign investors it attracts, Huanghai could be a $125 million project, with 264 units that are part showroom, part apartment, plus 120 hotel rooms, four restaurants, two office buildings, a convention center and a gas station on what is now an empty 35-acre parcel in the middle of an industrial part of town. Its current neighbors: Republic Services and a rock-crushing operation.
The developer envisions the center, planned for the northeast corner of Commerce Street and Cheyenne Avenue, as a one-stop shop for foreign manufacturers, who could come to the United States, live, eat and show their goods — everything from basic materials such as glass or plastic to consumer goods such as toys or coffee cups — all at one site. Each manufacturer would have one unit with 1,600 feet of showroom space and an 800-square-foot living quarter upstairs.
American companies typically have to travel overseas to find manufacturers. This project would bring the manufacturers to the companies.
If a company were in town for a trade show, for instance, it easily could stop by the North Las Vegas facility to meet with manufacturers to make changes to or fill gaps in its supply chains. The center ideally would include a handful of manufacturers for each type of good.
“This could really round off the trade show experience,” said Ryann Juden, North Las Vegas deputy city manager. “It could be a competitive advantage for the valley.”
The proposed funding for the center also is uncommon.
Huanghai would be paid for with foreign money through the federal EB-5 immigrant investor program, in which foreign investors become eligible for a green card by investing $500,000 and creating at least 10 permanent jobs for U.S. citizens. Money for the project would be pooled into a regional center, which collects funds from multiple foreign investors to pay for large-scale projects. There are 22 established regional centers in Nevada. Several large-scale gaming projects, including SLS Las Vegas, Downtown Grand and Lucky Dragon, have been backed by EB-5 investors.
This project aims for 250 investors, which would mean $125 million in investment and at least 2,500 permanent jobs.
But bringing an EB-5 project to fruition can be a lengthy, complicated process. Huanghai would be the first project in North Las Vegas built with EB-5 money. The project’s developer, James Liu, developed an almost identical project in California.
When plans were submitted to North Las Vegas, more than a few officials raised their eyebrows about what the project was and where developers wanted to put it. Months of back-and-forth discussions and a trip to Liu’s development in California’s Imperial Valley finally sold the City Council, which voted unanimously in October to approve a development agreement.
“It’s one of those think-outside-of-the-box projects, but I liked it,” said Councilwoman Pamela Goynes-Brown, whose ward includes the parcel. “There’s always the fear of the unknown when something new is presented to you. It’s a unique project.”
The next step is for Liu to apply to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to create an EB-5 regional center. Liu hopes to file the paperwork in the spring, but the approval process could take a year or more. Then, he will start securing investors, who could wait up to 15 months to hear whether their paperwork was approved.
Liu isn’t worried about finding enough investors. For his Imperial Valley project, he found 375.
And “North Las Vegas is much better,” Liu said. “People across the world know Las Vegas, even if they never come here. As they say, ‘location, location, location.’ ”
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