Banking on foreign investment Kim Smythe

Banking on foreign investment Kim Smythe

Immigration & Investment: Nanaimo needs to work proactively to attract investment

NANAIMO – Community's business leaders suggest targeting Chinese investment.

If a pot of capital exists in China, then Nanaimo needs to work to attract it, say two community leaders.

“We know the money is there, so we need to go there to attract immigration and investment,” said Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce president Kim Smythe.

The Harbour City has landed on the radar of Chinese investors, who are touring Nanaimo in higher numbers than before, but this city is looking to attract more.

Mayor Bill McKay said the city isn’t specifically targeting Chinese investment – it’s coming to Nanaimo. He sees three to five delegations a month, while former economic development corporation CEO Sasha Angus previously reported an uptick in investment inquiries from one every five to 10 days in 2012 to two or three a week.

Last year, there was the mega, $50-million SSS Manhao hotel proposal, which ultimately fell through, and NEDC spent more than $15,000 on hosting. An estimated $91,110 was spent in total over 2014, on marketing, business hosting and foreign investment and an overseas trip to China by the arms-length corporation.

Smythe and McKay talked about trips in the near future to promote Nanaimo and speak to investor groups.

The more investment there is, the more businesses thrive, expand and the economy grows stronger, said Smythe, adding those who also invest their lives in the community add diversity and culture.

Investment out of China is relatively new and Canada’s legal system, low dollar and welcoming community is attractive.

Stewart Beck, president and CEO of the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada, was involved in the first Chinese investment in Canada as consul general in Shanghai from 1999-2002. It’s become an important place to prospect for investment.

China is the “flavour of the month,” he said.

Investment has fallen to 6.5-7 per cent annually from 10 per cent for the past decade, but that’s still three times what the growth is in Canada.

“Everybody thinks wow, there’s big piles of money there, we should see if we could actually tap into that, which is not a bad idea,” Beck said, although he points out there are other growing countries in Asia with stable economies, including Japan and India.

McKay said the city is interested in investment from elsewhere, like the U.S., but he also said the community should work to attract investors if they are ready, willing and able.

Even investors’ contacts can help business, he points out.

The Hilton and Gordon Street hotel need more than a local market to drive them because Nanaimo isn’t a destination, but investors have connections and can create a destination.

“That’s how Las Vegas started. It was nothing but desert before,” he said.

For more stories in this series:

Immigration backlog delays retirement.

Cultural investment

Vandalism unusual in Canada

New business association pitched to help Chinese investors

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