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Growing global: Chamber courts investors for World Trade Center in Valley Youngstown



Published: Mon, December 6, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

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The Youngstown World Trade Center would convert the former Wells Building in downtown Youngstown into modern office space.

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Eric Planey, vice president of international business attraction for the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber

By Grace Wyler

gwyler@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Eric Planey is on a global crusade to sell the Mahoning Valley as an emerging hub of international commerce.

As vice president of international business attraction for the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, Planey has spent the past several months crisscrossing Europe and Asia to find investors for a $9 million global trade center in downtown Youngstown.

The project, dubbed the Youngstown World Trade Center, would convert the former Wells Building into modern office space with an adjacent six-story glass office tower to house small-and medium-sized foreign companies interested in establishing a presence in the North American market, Planey said.

Though raising funds for the trade center is still in the early stages, the project could be under way as early as the end of the first quarter of 2011, Planey said.

“I want to be conservative before saying that this is a done deal,” Planey said. “But we have a benefit in being able to execute the project quickly — we can finish the building in a year.”

To finance the project, the Chamber is hoping to take advantage of a visa program that allows foreigners to invest $500,000 in a U.S. business project in exchange for residency.

Under the EB-5 visa program, high net-worth foreigners can obtain permanent residency if they can prove their investment created at least 10 jobs in the census tract where the project is located. Investors do not have to live where the investment is made. Investments must be approved by an EB-5 Regional Center that has been designated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as eligible to receive immigrant investor capital.

Investments in the Youngstown World Trade Center will go through the Northeast Ohio Regional Center in Wooster, Planey said.

The EB-5 visa program, established in 1990, has increased in popularity as businesses look for alternatives to bank financing in an unstable credit market and student visas and green cards become more difficult to obtain.

Chamber officials hope to line up 18 EB-5 investors for the trade center, and have been working with an asset management company in Asia to pitch the project to potential investors, Planey said.

He declined to identify any potential investors, but said there has been “substantial interest from qualified investors.”

The “No. 1 issue with EB-5 projects” is the job creation requirement, Planey said. He added that the Chamber is confident the trade center will create 180 jobs to satisfy job quotas.

The Chamber has had discussions with several companies interested in moving in to the trade center, Planey said. The Chamber is targeting companies in China, Korea, Japan, Netherlands, France, Germany and, to a lessor extent, Brazil, he said.

Planey estimated that 30 to 35 percent of the office space in the trade center will be committed before construction begins, a number he said is “normal for any commercial office property.”

Because investments must be for-profit to qualify for the EB-5 visa program, the Chamber will create a company that will own the trade center, Planey said. The subsidiary will be controlled by the project’s investors. The Chamber will likely form a management agreement with the new company to staff the trade center, Planey said.

The World Trade Center project is part of the Chamber’s broader international business-attraction strategy, which aims to increase the Valley’s global competitiveness and presence in international commerce, said Tom Humphries, chief executive of the Chamber.

The small and medium enterprises being targeted for the World Trade Center are companies that are just entering the U.S. market, Humphries said. The hope is that these companies will see sales growth from their Youngstown office and eventually look to set up larger operations in the area.

The trade center would give these companies access to services such as logistics, accounting and strategic- growth planning designed to precipitate their expansion into North American markets, he said.

“Our strategy for international attraction is three-fold,” Humphries said. “We want to see sales first, second is distribution and hopefully third would be manufacturing.”

Humphries projected that the WTC project will create up to 200 jobs initially. While the senior leadership of the WTC companies will likely be from their countries of origin, other positions will likely be filled with local hires, Humphries said.

The Chamber began developing its international business strategy in 2006 by seeking out local business leaders with international expertise for the organization’s Board of Directors, Humphries said. Planey, a former vice president of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, in 2009 to oversee implementation of the international program.

Planey’s position is funded by a $285,000 congressional earmark, secured by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th in 2009. The Chamber has submitted a second request for funds, Humphries said, but increased debate over congressional earmarks “puts the program at risk.”

Humphries is now working to secure long-term financing for the international business attraction program. He declined to give details about his strategy, but said he hopes to have a funding plan in place by spring 2011

“I expect the program to pay for itself going forward,” Humphries said. “There are strong indications that people are receptive to the way I am trying to fund it.”

In addition to Planey’s salary, the U.S. grant now pays for international business attraction efforts and programming, including several overseas trips designed to develop the Chamber’s international business connections.

The Youngstown World Trade Center is prominently featured in the Chamber’s new international marketing book, which touts the Valley’s economic attributes, including its low real estate and labor costs. Planey distributed copies of the books to companies and potential investors on his trips abroad this fall.

The 74-page publication, “Youngstown & Warren Ohio: An Exploration of the Dynamic Business & Lifestyle Climate,” cost just under $60,000 to produce.

The bulk of those funds will come from the Chamber’s marketing budget and the international business grant, said Tony Paglia, the Chamber’s vice president for government affairs.

Mahoning County, Trumbull County and the cities of Warren and Youngstown each contributed $9,500 toward the marketing project, Paglia said. The counties’ contributions are separate from the Chamber’s economic-development contracts with the county commissioners of Mahoning and Trumbull counties, Paglia said.

The city of Niles, the Niles Area Council of the Chamber and the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District each contributed $2,500 to develop the marketing book.


Comments

1timOthy(802 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Planey, The picture of said site and building look fine as they are. Except their money so they can be citizens at a tune of $500,000.00 dollars. You should pedal these goods to Texas and Arizona it should help with there Immigration problem!Buying Citzenship.

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2UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Is this a joke? Why am I laughing? Youngstown as a World Trade Center.

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3bmanresident(597 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Yeah, the jobs would be filled with low level, ignorant locals like the VXI people in the phar mor building. I've never met a nastier group than most of those call center folks. And to bring more of them downtown, jeez, Lets bring real jobs to this valley, not just more of these 8 buck an hour jobs

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4computer_rick(137 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

I am as cynical as they come. Having had to put up with the Pollyannas who trumpeted the blimp factory, the Avanti factory, and most recently, the "Youngstown Free Trade Zone" (bonus points if you even recall this flash in the pan that was marketed on the presumption that, "hey, if it worked for Rickenbacker Air Reserve Base, why won't it work here?")

Having said that, hope springs infernal. If this can be done for as much as it costs to pay your basic low level simple servant whose only job requirement was having a relative already in the system, then give it a shot.

If they can actually get a few folks in there, and I do not care if they hire locally or not, just so the cash gets spent locally, it is better than just having a vacant pile of bricks...

(maybe the port authority can lend some of their expertise?)

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5hellokitty(161 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

This is the funniest thing I've read in a while. I guess Eric had to scramble for a way to appear to justify his extended world vacation.

"World Trade Center in Youngstown, what a joke, if the world were to get an enema they would stick the nozzle in Youngstown" Ha ha! So very true!!! But the idiots in youngstown will somehow justify this crap....

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6HaydenThomas(208 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Sounds more like Planey is using the organization and his VP position to vacation abroad on the dime of the taxpayers. I'll bet he also collects a pretty sweet 6 digit salary, top notch health care, and a better pension than the call center jobs he's trying to attract.

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7DoninFL(161 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Eric looks like he is still wet behind his ears!
Tom George had dreams for New Castle PA also. Some came to be but are gone now. Don't read too much about hime these days, guess he is getting old like the rest of us

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8GTX66(343 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Maybe Youngstown could sell pork barrels with Ryan's picture on them.

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9Constructor(105 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

This idea has merit.... had it been pursued about 20 years ago.

Where were these 'icons of business attraction' when Toyota, Mitsubishi, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, Nissan and Hyundai built their plants in this country? I'm disappointed that 100's of thousands of taxpayers dollars are subsidizing a few egos in acting out their fantasies.

I hope I'm wrong, but now that they've had their 15 minutes of fame, I doubt we'll hear much more about this until they need more money. The lack of another quarter million dollars will be the excuse needed to explain their eventual failure. And yet again, it won't be their fault that another one of their pipe dreams didn't work.

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10author50(1121 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

A Mafia Hall of Fame would be a sure winner!

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11hellokitty(161 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

censoredship you rock!

Keep tellin' it like it is brotha!!

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12Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Obama 2012 fundraiser ?

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13sq51(11 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Why don't we sell a little more of the US to foreigners so they can hire us back at 8.00/ hour. Do you think we are so ignorant that we see this as a good thing because it will create jobs? Give me a break!! Pull your craniums out of your rectums and do something real for this area. Until you do something to make people work for the government money that they receive nobody will be thrilled to work for this kind of wage. They can do better laying at home while we pay the way. I'm tired of paying the way while white shirts try to sell me a truck load of fertilizer telling me it will be good for me.

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14DJ0(72 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

....I'd be seriously surprised if Hyundai, Toyota, Mercedes, Nissan or any other off-shore nameplate would be willing to even attempt to build a facility here. Especially with GM and their reputation and the work ethic of those formerly employed here. No, Chevy has a lock on this area, for better or worse.

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15GTX66(343 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

This idea will work when Sheet & Tube comes back. The best thing that can happen to DT Y-Town is for a crane with a wrecking ball to go up and down Federal Street and have at the dilapidated , rat infested buildings.

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16Nunya(1356 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

@ RoddAC

Let's do this,..

Why don't you hold off on your incredulously petulant efforts. Where here you are suggesting those of far more worth, content, value, character and intelligence than you to leave the area,.. Get Real.

See this is optimal front page storyline for you to seize this open discussion opportunity. To try to explain your thoughts or knowledge, on how this is proverbial pie factory in a cake mill " operation " is supposed, projected or perceived to work or achieve success?,.. Wanna try that?

See with my sensibly being among those that see thru this recent fleecing fraud campaign. That now comes amidst the foray of the many others that Humpries the heinous & Co has launched. Mind you this is one that you're so frantically fan dancing trying to contend as some financial treasure for the area?,.. Horse Feathers !!!

To wit along with realizing this is just a shysters approach to fleecing tax dollars by selling Visas { Green cards }. You might want to explain a few things in question & answer form,.. oh say like.

1. Where's the factory that was going to supply the free world with Blimps that were never made?,.. what a dirigible that was huh?

2. Where's are all those Shower curtails from the factory that never was?,.. rub a dub that scrub huh Bub?

3. How about all those super snazzy Avanti's { kit cars on Monte Carlo frames }. That was concocted trying to infringe upon GM's material and manufacturing?,.. oh the nuts and bolts of nefariousness.

4. How about the " Free Trade Zone " campaign that disappeared after it exhausted all the taxpayer funding it could embezzle?,.. Shhhh?

5 How about all those crazy money indoor horse races that never happened?,.. gotta be wiser than Smarty Jones.

6. How can you interest the populous in the cyclical revolving door robbery rackets pitched as the ingenious reinvention of whats known as the Airport?,.. is the rain in Spain on that plain?.

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17Nunya(1356 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

JUST SO YOU KNOW:

Mind you those are just " 6 " indisputable instances. Reflecting upon just how costly and counter productive that " Chamber of check chiseling " is, has been and continues to be on the tax payers dime,.. deny it?

See I offer you to try answering ANY of those costly questions that you'd like there Einstein. Although in advance I know enough to guarantee the populous that you WON'T. Because they're a history of Humphries swindle variety hoodwinking hornswoggling hogwash contrived Klepto capers,.. net value ZERO !!! cost to the region and taxpayers MILLIONS !!!
.
So now,.. why don't YOU try to present any rationalized thought of presenting how viable / realistic that you see THIS " plan " is instead of trying to deny facts and history saying,.. NOTHING !!!

See THEN you could say something about anyone presenting presumptive thought. Or even those delivering a well referenced pattern of scams that this fleece fraud laden fiend has so historically sprung on the taxpayers.

Also try embracing that pro or con you don't own or run anything but your own mouth. Which to proclaim otherwise would convict you of sounding more insightfully empty, ignorant and non intelligent than you've proven thus far.

So now continue to bluster with no luster if you will there oh campaigner of absolutely NO content. But be it known you're only taken as apoplectic amusement and a combative criminal clamberer as such a crazed Clown,..

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18Nunya(1356 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

@ censoredship

There you go again

Here;s to your foolery,.. see that alleged investigation contending citing " Democrats " as culprits.

Was by your presentation launched back in 2002. Which not only ended with absolutely but nothing short of republican orchestrated lies.

But it's also now eight years later in now the year of 2010. Which is after two terms of a republican Bush boy presidency and a full term and 3/4's of another of a republican majority in both house and senate.

It wasn't just a lie then and an even bigger lie now. But the orchestrators of this fraud job being pitched to the populous.

Is launched by republican Tom Humphries whom endorsed and campaigned for republican John Kasich for governor.

Remember?,.. http://www.vindy.com/news/2010/oct/08...

Which as time table has it this launch comes on the cusp of after Kasich has become governor elect,.. AND THAT AIN'T IRONY !!!

Which clearly reveals your elaborate spin. Built upon referencing a story that is so far fetched and unfounded. That it no longer even has a host for it on the net.

Lastly,.. Wally Roche Jr. is one of if not thee least credible republican branded baseless blab balloon heads that has a perch outside of the mass mis-infomercials over at Fox Neus.

The only thing you were correct about was this is a rouse orchestrated to fleece taxpayers. But it's NOT launched by the Democrats.

To include without bias Tim Ryan has placed himself in a detestable position. Of him fastly loosing support, via him allocating funding for another indefensible fleecing of the taxpayers.

Now those are the FACTS and it's not playing upon partisan political lines either,.. you side winding Stooge.

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19theCaliforniaKid(56 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Maybe we could start up a bunch of WTC's, including here in my sinkhole part of the world. I think I've finally got hold of the REVISED AMERICANDREAM. Grab the money and grab as much money as quick as you can grab the MONEY. Honey - sounds great

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20Nunya(1356 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

@ Jessiedavid

Ohh My,..

Doesn't everyone just love the blustering blizzard of one bestowing the ominous " Snowy & Glowy " affectations,.. a real sing-a-long with Mitch pitcher huh?.

Where via my enjoying a shindig as much as anyone else. Thus not to disrupt your so dexterously diddly bopping with sugarplums of stolen tax funds dancing in your head,.. to a tune unknown to other virtuoso's here.

However, in the midst of your Wintry wonderland of so whimsically whistling Wall street hymns. Complete with ponzi arpeggio's that serenaded the sounds of oh so many serial swindles.

Can I possibly interest you in telling us about all and or any of those exceptionally talented, and successful knowledge, expertise, contacts, and work ethic success salutations. That this electrifying Eric Planey, is alleged to have done. For the purpose of us others to learn the tune and sing-a-long?,.. Hmmm?.

Because to be perfectly honest,.. I and a number of others think the tune you're trying to croon here. Is far less than a clear chorus of " A Star in the Ghetto " by Ben E. King and the Average White Band,.. that's primo soul.

No,.. see what I detect is a non original re-sampling remix of a fusion mixing of " Your Cheatin Heart " by Hank Williams, " Money for Nothing " by Dire Straits being overdubbed with a bit of " Tubthumpping." by Chumbawamba,.. there Mistro.

To which leaves you bearing the fancy foot work and stiff styloid process gyrations of a flat footed finger pointing Jerry Lewis. Tiptoe tap dancing that band besting Ballroom Bossanova in the film titled the Nutty professor,.. and now you're the new aged Buddy Love,.. huh?

So now Hum us a few bars of any of those Eric Planey, chart toppers that you tried to shake your sacroiliac to. To include pitch in any key that you're capable of,.. or can't you even wing it?

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21cambridge(3013 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

censoredship.....How about you expounding on that foreign investor Rupert Murdoch and his key Saudi partners?

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22Traveler(606 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Democrat dont care about the middle class anymore then the republicans do. Naft was a gift to the middle class from Clinton and obama is going to give us a free trade deal with south korea.

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23Nunya(1356 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

@ censoredship

Lets stay on course here,..

My point was clear and that being your spin and angle trying to falsely present this as some Democratic party presentation is a flat out LIE,.. I've proved that.

So now I'll not refute nor mince words of denying that members of both have sold their lying hind-part's for money,.. we clear on that?

However, in your angled attempt to pile it on Democrats with a presentation of a deluge of diversion.

Absolutely was / is and remains nothing less than grossly misleading, inaccurate and unhinged. Which serves as nothing less than attempting to veil what this discussion is about.

See I'm so non bias I make no bones about I'm not in alignment with any of the local yoko's in Youngstown pretending to be Democrats.

To include via this showing Tim Ryan, is showing his lack of appreciation for having been re-elected. He was merely better than Traficant and that other local Yoyo as candidates,.. it won't be that way next time.

Now lets keep Tom Humphries and this Eric Planey at the center of their ponzi scheme they're pitching here,.. Least Ye Forget.

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24LowerCaseG(11 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Although separate from the ridiculous debate about the impact of the Chinese Government on the Democratic Party, I would like to ask why there is such a mistrust for people who work in government, collect a decent salary, and travel around the world seeking investment in the area.

Hayden Thomas and commentators in other forums routinely seem skeptical of those who collect comfortable wages from government dollars and question their motives no matter how practical they seem.

To me, this exemplifies exactly what is wrong with the city of Youngstown. The problem does not lie in government ideas or political problems (although certainly that was a problem in the past). The real problem is the type of backwards mentality that frowns upon practical solutions like the attempt to draw in foreign investment. Creativity and solutions are frowned upon in this town for whatever reason. That mentality is the first thing that needs to go if there is ever going to be a resurgence in this community.

I find it sad that such a large percentage of the people in Youngstown are so hostile to innovation, outside the box ideas, and outside influences. Here is a newsflash: globalization isn't going to slow down. It would be wise to find foreign investment since the 1950s steel economy will probably not be returning to Youngstown anytime soon.

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25YNGAirSupporter(16 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Successful EB-5 projects:

http://www.eb5jaypeakresort.com/

Blog that monitors EB-5 programs:

http://whicheb5.com/blog/2010/01/eb5-...

http://www.whicheb5.com/popular-cente...

Just goes to show there are two sides to a story and not just yours Censor.

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26dano0513(9 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Why would anyone invest in Youngstown? Ask V&M Star, ask Excel Corp. Strong non union work force and inexpensive utilities by comparison. And ask GM, strong union work force as well. We either accept these or we can be happy with more stores and restraunts in boardmman, I'll take the former, you cant afford to shop and eat if the only job you can get is at a store or restraunt.

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