Thursday, December 17, 2009
Silicon Valley venture capitalist Rock Clapper wants to turn green cards into green jobs in Marina. Clapper is applying to make the city a hub for a foreign national investment fund that could grow to $75 million and create 1,500 jobs. “This is an opportunity for growth in the community,” Clapper says. “Marina’s a sleeping gem.”
Clapper, a member of the Menlo Park investment group Band of Angels, is applying to make the area from Marina to Monterey a regional center under the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. This would allow foreigners willing to put up at least $500,000 to create or preserve 10 jobs in the area to receive green cards for their immediate family. “The immigrants are very interested in a return on investment, but also interested in receiving a green card,” Clapper says.
The EB-5 program has 73 regional centers across the country, including more than 20 in California, from winery development in Napa to motion picture production in Los Angeles. Clapper’s company, Citizn Fund, would target industries including clean energy, agri-business and pharmaceuticals, giving investments and loans to new and existing Marina businesses.
If a Silicon Valley tech company wanted to get startup money from Citizn Fund, it would have to move to Marina. “Now there is an opportunity for companies to have access to capital with the inducement to be located in the Marina area,” says Alan Barich, Marina Technology Cluster manager. “It will do a lot to promote a clean and green vision center for the region.”
The business incubator is partly what attracted Clapper to the area. “The incubator becomes like a magnet to draw these companies in,” he says.
The big question is whether the Marina fund will be able to attract enough wealthy foreign investors and if companies will take the bait.
Clapper’s partner is Won-Gil Choe, CEO of Mountain View-based Stanford Venture Group, who for the past decade has invested in or managed China and Asia-based companies. The fund will initially focus on marketing to investors in China, South Korea and Southeast Asia.
Barich says Clapper and Choe “have the right kind of background and connections and everything else to make this a successful program.”
Clapper says he is assembling his legal and economic team and is tentatively scheduled to present before the Marina City Council on Jan. 26. He has requested a letter of support from the city and a $25,000 loan to offset application costs.
Mayor Bruce Delgado says he doesn’t know enough about the program to sign off on the loan, especially given tight budget times. “To spend $25,000, give them a boost and the potential to bring in this kind of revenue and jobs, it seems reasonable,” Delgado says. It also sounds too good to be true, he adds.
If the application process goes smoothly, Clapper says, the fund will get off the ground in six months. While winning a regional center won’t instantly make Marina the clean tech capital of the state, Clapper thinks it’s a place to start.