Chi­nese in­vestors lift pre­vi­ously des­o­late in­dus­trial city of Cleve­land

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By JOHN HARPER in Cleve­land, Ohio For China Daily

Down­town Cleve­land, Ohio, was once so des­o­late that a city coun­cil­man said on public ra­dio that a bowl­ing ball could be rolled down the main street with­out hit­ting any­one.

A de­cline in steel man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs — for­merly the eco­nomic bedrock of the once fourth-largest city in the United States — co­in­cided with ur­ban flight in the 1970s and 1980s, when mid­dle-class res­i­dents left Cleve­land for more spa­cious homes in nearby sub­urbs.

Home val­ues in the city dropped as much as 90 per­cent in some neigh­bor­hoods dur­ing the years af­ter the 2008 re­ces­sion, ac­cord­ing to The Cleve­land Plain Dealer, and many ar­eas still haven’t re­cov­ered. From a pop­u­la­tion of 900,000 in 1950, the city now has about 385,000 res­i­dents.

But Cleve­land has had a resur­gence, so much so that it was the site for the Re­pub­li­can con­ven­tion in July.

Cleve­land has tran­si­tioned per­cent from a man­u­fac­tur­ing cen­ter to a more ser­vice-based econ­omy. Oc­cu­pancy rates in apart­ment build­ings have climbed more than 90 per­cent.

Real es­tate de­vel­op­ers say the city’s resur­gence might not have hap­pened if they had not re­ceived some timely as­sis­tance money that has come largely from Chi­nese im­mi­grant in­vestors and the EB-5 visa pro­gram.

EB-5 was cre­ated to stim­u­late the US econ­omy through job cre­ation and cap­i­tal in­vest­ment. It tar­gets for­eign in­vestors who put at least $500,000 into a project that cre­ates a min­i­mum of 10 jobs in an eco­nom­i­cally de­pressed re­gion. In re­turn, the in­vestors re­ceive a two-year visa with a good chance of ob­tain­ing per­ma­nent res­i­dency for them­selves and their fam­i­lies.

In 2014, the US is­sued more than 10,000 of the visas and about 85 per­cent went to ap­pli­cants from China. This month, the Con­gress ap­proved a mea­sure to con­tinue fund­ing the pro­gram un­til April 2, 2017, when changes are ex­pected to be made to the pro­gram.

The Cleve­land In­ter­na­tional Fund is one of sev­eral re­gional cen­ters in the US des­ig­nated by US Cus­toms and Im­mi­gra­tion to di­rect EB-5 in­vest­ments. Of the eight projects built at a to­tal cost of $2.3 bil­lion, the fund claims that for­eign in­vestors have pro­vided more than $220 mil­lion, and of that amount, Chi­nese im­mi­grants have been re­spon­si­ble for roughly 85 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to Cleve­land In­ter­na­tional Fund CEO Stephen Str­nisha.

Str­nisha said that EB-5 fi­nanc­ing was a key el­e­ment for an of­fice build­ing and ho­tel be­com­ing a re­al­ity. That money went into not only the East Bank of­fices and ho­tel, but also into a $70 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion that cre­ated a 484-room Westin Ho­tel, two blocks from City Hall, he added.

of the EB-5 visas is­sued by the US in 2014 went to Chi­nese ap­pli­cants

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