Group trying to lure Chinese banks, manufacturers to Nevada

People who travel to foreign countries get in a comfort zone when they see a Bank of America or Wells Fargo when they need to exchange currency or conduct other financial business.

That’s the idea behind Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance’s current trade mission to China with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development — to generate some familiarity for foreign companies considering locating operations here.

Tom Skancke, president and CEO of the LVGEA — the former Nevada Development Authority — has scheduled meetings with executives from 15 banks in China with the goal of convincing one or more of them to open a branch in Southern Nevada. Skancke believes having a familiar bank with Chinese-speaking executives here could help convince companies with manufacturing ambitions to set up here.

“It’s really raising the level of visibility,” Skancke said. “If you’re a Chinese company looking at Las Vegas, if Bank of China were located in the Hughes Center or the name is on the top of a building as it is in downtown L.A., they might look at Las Vegas as a different kind of investment opportunity.”

Skancke and a contingent of state economic development leaders left Saturday with stops planned in Beijing, Guangzhou, Qingdao and Shenzhen. It’s Skancke’s second trip to China in three months and the fifth in his career.

Convincing foreign investment in the United States requires building relationships, a concept with which state leaders became familiar when Nevada established the first-ever Chinese-licensed tourism office for a state in 2004.

Tourism and economic development leaders say convincing Chinese manufacturers to locate in the United States requires cultural understandings and friendships.

Skancke said there are companies that have visited Southern Nevada in the last few months that want establish manufacturing and distribution centers. Las Vegas appeals to them for the same reason domestic companies have looked at Southern Nevada — lower prices for real estate, a business-friendly atmosphere and a robust transportation infrastructure anchored by McCarran International Airport and access to Interstate 15 and freight rail lines.

Skancke said that within the past two months, Chinese manufacturing executives have scouted Southern Nevada. Their companies manufacture and distribute iPad covers and keyboards and rechargeable batteries, among other products.

“We want to attract manufacturing; they want to bring manufacturing here,” he said. “They’re looking at warehouses, manufacturing sites and homes.”

The benefit to Southern Nevada would be the prospect of more jobs.

Skancke also is pitching Clark County’s foreign trade zone concept. Companies that locate within a foreign trade zone can distribute products to foreign countries tax free, as long as they aren’t sold within the United States.

Companies must file for trade zone status through several federal government agencies. Skancke also noted that any bank that would locate in Southern Nevada would be subject to federal banking regulations. Some of the larger Chinese banks already have Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. approvals in place with their West Coast bank branches.

“A manufacturer or distributor can come to Las Vegas, store product and manufacture in the foreign trade zone,” Skancke said. “As long as they don’t sell it in the United States, they can ship it out of here tax free. It creates jobs and tax base.”

That’s one of the reasons why transportation leaders are anxious to develop Interstate 11, the proposed upgrade to U.S. 93 to Phoenix that would improve the route to Mexican seaports.

It’s also the reason the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is working to turn the Las Vegas Convention Center into the Las Vegas Global Business District with a $2.5 billion refurbishment that will include building a World Trade Center office.