Nanaimo mayor envisions foreign investment dollars

It’s time for Nanaimo to discuss whether it’s open to large-scale foreign investment, according to Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay.

It’s time for Nanaimo to discuss whether it’s open to large-scale foreign investment, according to Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay.

He and Andre Sullivan, chairman of the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation, are back from a nine-day trade mission to China, where they met with investors who were interested in agriculture, the conference centre hotel and real estate.

This month’s overseas trip was mostly independent of B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s trade delegation, which Sullivan and McKay joined for two half-days. The rest of the trip in Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Shanghai, McKay and Sullivan met with Chinese provincial trade representatives and discussed opportunities in Nanaimo with business people and investment firms.

There was no discussion with investors on liquefied natural gas opportunities McKay initially wanted to explore, but there was interest in the Hilton and conference centre hotel sites, a passenger ferry, seafood markets and real estate, including the city’s plans for the south industrial waterfront.

Neither the mayor nor Sullivan would disclose with whom they met, but McKay said the trip was “1,000 per cent” worthwhile and he can’t wait to go back. He’d like to see four more trips this term.

The question now is how this city feels about multimillion-dollar investment that would change the flavour of the community, said McKay.

“We were asked more than once, how will the community receive $100, $200, $500 million dollars worth of investment from Asian investors because in some of their projects in different parts of North America, they’ve had backlash,” he said. “So for us in Nanaimo, it’s time for us to ask the community that question.”

Sullivan said he and the mayor started very good relationships with a few people in China who are going to come and see the community.

“All the projects that you read about in your paper, all the projects that you hear about all require capital and the most common pitfall is people aren’t able to raise that capital,” Sullivan said. “By going on the trip we unlocked a new pot of money that’s available for some of those investments.”

The trip tallied about $13,000 in total, Sullivan said.

Two delegations from China are expected to come to the city in the New Year to look at investment sites.

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