Lakewood Positioned for Foreign Investment through Designation of New Regional Centers
City accepted into Immigrant Investor Pilot Program
LAKEWOOD, Wash. (September 4, 2009)
For Lakewood, Wash., which was incorporated as a city just 13 years ago, economic development is a priority in its continuing efforts to redefine this south Puget Sound community of 60,000 residents. And now, city officials have an additional "tool" to help them attract new businesses and increase employment opportunities.
The city recently learned that it has been accepted into the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The program designates Regional Centers throughout the city where job creation is encouraged through foreign investment.
"Lakewood is one of just six cities in the entire state that has received this designation, which encourages non-U.S. citizens to invest in high-unemployment areas throughout the city," said Lakewood's Economic Development Manager Ellie Chambers-Grady. "This is a win-win for us as well as the investors. The foreign investors are granted a permanent residence Visa through an investment in a business in our Regional Center, and in turn, the city benefits through the creation of new jobs for area residents."
The two primary requirements foreign investors must meet to qualify for an EB5 Visa, also referred to as an Investment Green Card, are: a minimum investment of $500,000 into a new or existing business within a designated Regional Center; and the creation of at least 10 direct and or indirect jobs.
Lakewood's designated Regional Centers include such high unemployment districts as: Pacific Highway and South Tacoma Way; the Tillicum and Woodbrook neighborhoods; and a neighborhood adjacent to Lakewood's recently developed Towne Center.
Based on the application submitted by the city and approved by the USCIS, foreign investors must develop commercial enterprises within one of nine primary industry clusters that city managers have deemed beneficial to the future economic growth and vitality of the city. These include: architectural and engineering services; banking and financial services; entertainment; hotels; light manufacturing; restaurants; retail; transportation; and warehousing. Additionally, the city welcomes developers who are willing to work on apartments, commercial office space and light industrial projects.
"Lakewood offers individuals living outside the United States prime opportunities for commercial investment," said Henry Liebman, president of Seattle-based American Life, Inc., the company that obtained the regional center designation. "The Immigrant Investor Pilot Program reaffirms the city's commitment to redevelopment and attracting a wide variety of quality businesses."
American Life has a long history of working with other cities to attract foreign investors and has been responsible for more than 30 foreign investment projects in Washington. Other cities in the state with designated Regional Centers are Bellingham, Everett, Tacoma and Seattle.
Lakewood is strategically located for foreign companies that rely on major water and land transportation routes for the distribution of their products. Closer to Asia than any other U.S. seaports, the ports of the Pacific Northwest area are premier gateways for products to and from North America. Lakewood is minutes away from the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, which together constitute the third-largest container complex in the United States through which $40 billion worth of goods travel every year. Additionally, Lakewood is located just off the Interstate 5 corridor, the West Coast's primary north-south freeway transportation route.
About Lakewood, Washington
Lakewood is the second largest city in Pierce County and the fifteenth largest in Washington. It is strategically located between Sea-Tac International Airport and Olympia, the state's capital. The city is home to 60,000 residents and nearly 1,100 businesses. Lakewood also is the primary city serving three major military installations: McChord Air Force Base, Fort Lewis and Camp Murray. In 2008, Lakewood was named one of the nation's One Hundred Best Communities for Young People by America's Promise Alliance for the third year.
In addition to vibrant residential and business communities, the city offers a myriad of recreational opportunities for residents and tourists. These include: five lakes offering water skiing, rowing, and fishing; five golf courses; Fort Steilacoom Park, and Lakewold Gardens, to name a few. The city also is the gateway to: Chambers Bay Golf Course, selected as home to the 2015 U.S. Open; Mt. Rainier National Park; and Puget Sound waterways and islands.