A Swedish company called Pin2Pin, which manufactures toys that compete with LEGO, is interested in relocating to Flagler County and beginning to make and distribute its toys from here. It’s all preliminary right now, but the prospect is encouraging to Bill Nix, a real estate agent who thinks international investments could help Palm Coast recover from the recession.
Nix, whose 35-year career in various technology businesses took him throughout Latin America and Asia, has been exploring past connections with about 250 businesses to drum up interest. One effective incentive, he believes, will be the U.S. EB-5 Immigrant Investor program.
EB-5 was started by U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services in July 2012 to promote job growth. The program works like this: If a foreigner invests $1 million in a new commercial enterprise that meets certain criteria, and if that investment results in creating or preserving 10 jobs in two years in the United States, the investor gets a package of benefits, including two visas.
Flagler County, however, qualifies as a “targeted unemployment area,” which reduces the required investment by half, to $500,000.
Helga van Eckert, executive director for Flagler County’s Economic Opportunity Council, is also interested in using the EB-5 program. She said that, especially here, it’s a “valuable tool” for economic development.
“Flagler County is a very diverse community,” she said. “It’s something that we are investigating further, and we’re considering doing a one-day seminar in the spring.”
That one-day seminar would serve a similar purpose as the site-selector conference last year. “One of the goals of the county is to bring potential site selectors and investors to the community so they can experience the county’s assets first-hand,” van Eckert said.
Nix believes such a conference will be successful, and that, based on early feedback he has heard from residents, there is even more “local gold” to be mined. One Ukranian business owner said knows three people who have been trying to get visas for sometime, and “they’re the kind of people who can invest,” Nix said. “How many more people are there like that in Palm Coast?”
“We have the big club down the street, the Portuguese Club,” he continued. “There are a lot of foreign nationals who live here. So, if they’ve got relatives and/or companies they used to work for, it’s a networking thing.”
Email Nix at [email protected].