Politics & Government

Tacoma mayor’s commission aims to attract more foreign investors

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland thinks the Puget Sound region can do better at attracting foreign direct investment.

That’s why she asked the City Council this week to form the Mayor’s Commission on International Relations, which she said is an effort to attract more international investors to Tacoma, while at the same time promoting Tacoma businesses abroad. The council unanimously approved the creation of the commission.

During Tuesday’s council meeting, Strickland said the Seattle metro area is performing worse than comparable metro areas in attracting foreign direct investment. She called the region’s performance “woefully low for the assets that we have here.”

A federal program called EB-5 allows foreign nationals to obtain permanent residency status for themselves and family members if they invest in projects that create jobs here. So far, only one project in Tacoma has used EB-5 funds, the old Foremost Dairies building at South 25th Street and Pacific Avenue.

Another could be coming: a potential hotel and condo project. The city remains in negotiations with Yareton Investment and Management LLC, which has ties to China, on a contract for two condo and hotel towers, one rising as high as 34 stories, next to the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center.

Last week, Strickland said there are opportunities for foreign investors in Tacoma “if we tell our story correctly.”

Several Tacoma organizations already deal with international relations, including the World Trade Center, Port of Tacoma and higher education institutions, she said. Commission members will include people from those organizations.

The commission will help “set the stage” for a unified strategy to promote economic development, arts and education, she said.

Strickland said the commission will be ready in time for the December launch of the Global Cities Initiative, which aims to help regions compete in the global marketplace. She and the mayors of Everett and Seattle met in May to launch the initiative.

She also encouraged each council member to adopt a Sister City or two, and “think about how to cultivate those relationships on a regular basis.”

The city of Tacoma currently has Sister City relationships with 12 cities around the globe, including in China, France, Morocco, South Africa, Japan and Russia.

“Around the world, interacting with an elected official is a big deal,” Strickland said last week.