International investors still flocking to local developer's current, future projects


As construction crews continue progress on the Northern Riverfront Marina and Hotel project, its developer may soon have other projects in store thanks to continued interest from foreign investors.

Chuck Schoninger, president and CEO of Wilmington-based USA InvestCo, said Tuesday that as his firm continues to grow, interest in Wilmington from international investors is growing.

USA InvestCo is an investment firm that raises capital from international interest for U.S. projects.

“We have 15 full-time employees in China currently, and about equal to that in the U.S. that do different things,” Schoninger said. “From handling EB5 to putting together presentations for future investors, we’re doing a lot to raise significant capital for our future projects.”

Since opening an investment office in Guangzhou, China more than a year ago, Schoninger is luring Chinese investors with a federal program called Employment Based Program Number 5, or EB5 — where for a minimum of $500,000 invested, individual investors are granted green cards to move their families to the country.

Last month, Schoninger, along with Joanna Zhao, a North Carolina Department of Commerce representative, visited with dozens of stakeholders with the Agricultural Bank of China in Jinan.

“It was a wealth seminar for their clients,” Schoninger said of the trip. “They were very interested in the projects that we had going on in Wilmington and throughout North Carolina.”
Since returning from China, Schoninger said there would soon be 43 investor stakeholders by June immediately tied to the nearly $30 million Northern Riverfront Marina and Hotel project — a 204-slip marina and nine-story Hotel Indigo set to rise along Nutt Street in downtown Wilmington. He added the site would also boast mixed-use condo living space, restaurant, retail and office space during build out.  

The firm is also looking into other projects that could add hundreds of jobs at the Port of Wilmington.

Coined “Project Penguin,” Schoninger would not release too many details about the new venture, only adding it would provide a “significant void in the market,” and could bring “additional jobs” to the greater Wilmington region.

Schoninger is also expanding his workforce that could impact Wilmington.

Since launching his company, Schoninger’s firm now occupies nearly 7,000 square feet of space on the third and second floors of an office building at the Plantation Building, located at 720 N. Third St. He added that he also plans to bring his local and worldwide workforce to 200 employees in the coming years.

“We just opened an office in Shanghai,” Schoninger said. “Now we’re looking for more space for that office.”