The councilman, Bob Sheckler, was in China on a mission to establish a sister city relationship with Des Moines, but after learning that the owner of the hotel was looking to develop a project in Washington, Sheckler sensed an opportunity.
The Chinese businessman was deciding between Des Moines and Tacoma, Washington. Although it may seem unusual for such a large project to be developed in one of two rather small and obscure towns in the Pacific Northwest, Sheckler was told that both of the cities had certain geographic and infrastructure features that made them attractive investment locations.
Sheckler made his best pitch for Des Moines. He reminded the Chinese hotel magnate that the U.S. Open championship would be held at a nearby golf course in 2015, around the time the hotel is scheduled to open. Moreover, as part of Washington’s effort to develop deeper commercial and cultural ties to China, SeaTac, Seattle’s international airport, has announced daily nonstop flights to Shanghai beginning next summer. Des Moines sits just a few miles south of SeaTac and very close to a major highway that leads to the airport. Tourists from China and elsewhere could potentially be shuttled directly to the hotel in Des Moines as soon as they have collected their baggage, which would certainly be convenient for travelers who have just spent over 12 or 13 hours on a flight. And the scenic beauty of the Puget Sound and surrounding mountains would not hurt, either.
Sheckler sold the Chinese hotel developer on the idea of Des Moines as the home of his new project, called Artemis, and construction is scheduled to begin sometime next year.
The Des Moines hotel project is an example of the USCIS’ EB-5 visa program in action. It will be funded almost entirely by the Yareton Hotel Investment Funds Regional Center. An EB-5 regional center, like Yareton, is financed by foreign entrepreneurs, but is generally managed by U.S.-based business executives. Regional centers can pool money from multiple foreign investors and use it to pay for the construction and development of large-scale projects. In order to receive EB-5 regional center designation, immigrant entrepreneurs must prove they have the funds necessary (either $500,000 or $1 million) to finance a commercial enterprise and a business plan based on sound economic models that reasonably ensure that at least 10 permanent full-time jobs will be created.
The Chinese hotel owner who struck the deal with Sheckler is the majority investor in the Yarteton EB-5 regional center, and his American counterpart is currently in the process of attracting additional foreign investment to the project. It is estimated that about 170 jobs will be created by the hotel, which will include a casino, a café, a bar and two restaurants.