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Federal Way's trip to South Korea includes foreign investor pitch
City leaders' upcoming trip to South Korea will serve a dual purpose this year.
Officials head to South Korea at the end of March to celebrate Federal Way's relationship with one of its two sister cities. While overseas, local notables will also showcase Federal Way as a great place to invest economically.
Each year, Federal Way visits with its sister cities: Donghae, South Korea, and Hachinohe, Japan. A small group of city leaders and staff either travel abroad to the sister cities or play host to leaders who come here. This year will vary slightly from past years. Federal Way will only visit Donghae, due to scheduling conflicts with Hachinohe.
The trip will have special significance. Federal Way and Donghae will celebrate three anniversaries. This year, Federal Way turns 20, Donghae turns 30 and the sisterhood between the two cities enters its 10th year.
The visit will be marked by cultural experiences. Leaders will also network and share problem-solving ideas, economic development director Patrick Doherty said. Additionally, time will be set aside to educate the South Korean population on investment opportunities in Federal Way.
Encouraging foreign investment
South Koreans are generally aware of Federal Way because of its large Korean population, Doherty said. However, they are not likely aware of the benefits they could get by investing here, he said. After spending time in Donghae, Federal Way's representatives will travel to Seoul. There, they will host a marketing event likely to include food, video, presentations and printed materials displaying Federal Way's economic projects and the city's room for growth.
Koreans are looking to invest, Doherty said. The South Korean economy seems to be bouncing back quicker than the U.S. economy, creating a situation that is favorable to foreign investors, Doherty said.
"Folks with money from other countries are viewing this as a good time to invest in our country," he said.
A main focus of the marketing event will be Federal Way's newest economic leg-up on the competition. On Nov. 5, Federal Way was classified as a regional center — an area in need of economic growth. The label means the city can leverage the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program to attract foreign investors to Federal Way.
Foreign investors who pump a minimum of $1 million into Federal Way's downtown and help to create at least 10 new local jobs are granted permanent U.S. residential status for two years through EB-5. Their spouses and unmarried children are also eligible for a visa, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
The money must go toward creating a new business, purchasing, restructuring or reorganizing an existing business to create a new commercial enterprise, expanding an existing business's jobs or net worth by 140 percent, or contributing to retaining all existing jobs in a business that has lost 20 percent of its net worth in the past two years.
"This is an opportunity for an investment, whatever kind of investment it may be," Doherty said.
Already, the EB-5 program has been beneficial to Federal Way. Twin Development LLC announced this month it plans to capitalize on the program to build a 45-story mixed use building, including retail, a hotel, restaurants, conference center, day spa, public plaza and residences, at the old Azteca restaurant site, 31740 23rd Ave. S.
Doherty said he's received other phone calls from developers showing interest in EB-5, but nothing has gone public yet. People are becoming aware of it, he said.
"There's a lot of interest on the part of Korean investors," Doherty said.