Green Tea with Developer John Lam (与开发商林建中先生品茶交谈) – Episode 24
We always make it a point to invite as many developers as we can to showcase different perspectives in the EB5 industry. For today’s show, Mona Shah, Hui Zeng and Mark Deal sit down with premier developer John Lam to talk about how he started and what paved the way for his 30 years of success in real estate in New York.
With over 60 million tourists every year, New York City is a favorite destination for both domestic and international visitors in the U.S. The biggest challenge though is finding an affordable place to stay. John Lam realized this when he ventured into real estate in the early 80s. The real estate community is hard to penetrate, especially for someone from the Chinese community. But John was able to overcome all the challenges. Currently, his company has converted over 50 buildings in New York City alone. John Lam shares his beginnings, his achievements, and challenges he has encountered from the time he came to the U.S. in 1969, up to his current involvement with the EB5 industry.
John Lam’s beginnings:
- He came to the U.S. in 1969. In 1972, he ventured into the garment industry, starting with 3000 employees in his garment factories until he became the president of New York Garment Association with 35,000 members. His great contribution of long term employment creation for New York City was complimented by the Mayor.
- In 1980, John ventured into real estate and bought his first building for a little over a million dollars. It is now valued at $70 million. During this time, most banks in Chinatown only gave loans amounting to $100,000 – $200,000. He understood that the amount may be sufficient to buy a residential home, but for any businessman who wants to make it big in NYC, that amount could not buy a commercial building. By 1985, cooperating with his friends, he started a community bank with the aim of giving loans to the people in the Chinese community.
- in 1996, John bought his first hotel. He has built hotels for famous franchises like Sheraton, Marriott, and Hilton to name a few. John has developed over 28 hotels in NYC from the ground up. His hard work was recognized by the city when he started winning awards like Man of the Year, Developer of the Year, Best Service Award, Best Design Award and so much more.
Why New York City?
- There are over 60 million people who visit New York City every year. Hotels in NYC average an 85%-90% occupancy, compared to hotels in other states with only around 65% occupancy. Aside from that, hotels in NYC charge 3-10 times more than other cities in the U.S.
- John applied for licensing around 2012. Being a leading expert in the hotel industry, he saw the opportunity to bring good projects to the Chinese people via EB5. His first and second EB5 projects last 2013 and 2014 had 100% approval for 120 of his investors. However, for the third EB5 project, John encountered hurdles when USCIS doubted that his projects have no risks to the investors. To manage the rejections, a Motion To Reconsider was submitted to USCIS by Lam NYC EB-5 Regional Center. During the first quarter alone, of the 1864 investor cases that USCIS has received, 637 were rejected. USCIS is indeed evolving and getting stricter by scrutinizing every detail in each investors’ application.
- Because of the excellent credit and solid financial background of Lam Group, even the government has granted funds to Lam’s current project in Harlem of New York. Some online slanders of “hot money” about Lam’s project collapsed of itself without being attacked.
- John already has projects 4 and 5 in the works. Regarding refinancing, John mentioned that whether the market is good or not, he always refinances because the banks he is connected with still backs him up and refinances his projects.
> 1980年，林建中涉足房地产业，以稍多于一百万美元的价值买了他的第一个建筑。现在，它已经价值7000万美元。在那时，纽约唐人街大部分银行只能放贷款$ 100,000 – $ 200,000美元。据他了解，该数额可能只够买个家居住宅，但想在纽约发展的商人，这个数字还有可能买不到一幢商业大厦。到1985年，在与他的朋友们的合作下，他开创了社区银行，目的是为中国社区的居民提供贷款。