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NEW ORLEANS-A Chinese investment group is planning a $20-million equity infusion into building a trade center in the Greater New Orleans area. The plan’s backers, led by a Dallas firm, already have had discussions with city officials.

The proposal by NewMarket Technology Inc. of Dallas surfaced yesterday during a presentation to a select group of companies in Beijing. The plan is still preliminary, with the location and roll-out timeframe for the Chinese Consumer Market Commerce Center still part of the unknown, Richard Lutz, NewMarket’s investor relations director, tells GlobeSt.com.

What is known is “a lot of manufacturers want to break into the US market and just don’t know how,” Lutz says, adding the team had been “exploring” New Orleans for investment when the idea started to gel. Lutz says the ground-up project will be a cultural and marketing B2B portal, which could include showrooms and call center components. He says the commerce center is aimed at creating “a two-way street” for trading with a bricks-and-mortar presence on US soil as an entry portal for Chinese firms.

NewMarket as a minority partner for the project yesterday launched NewMarket China Inc. on the Over-The-Counter Bulletin Board, opening the door for the center to be a US corporation. NewMarket touts itself a pioneer in financing early stage business initiatives.

Steve Molnar, director of Greater New Orleans Inc., says the city’s history as the site of the first World Trade Center makes it a logical choice for the US’ first China commerce center. “There have been similar concepts proposed, but never developed,” Molnar says about the China Consumer Market Commerce Center. “From our end, it’s a great opportunity for the market. We’d like to increase trade with international groups.”

Molnar says the Greater New Orleans team is tracking more than $15 billion of foreign investment interest in the city. “There’s quite a lot of interest being expressed. How many will come to fruition,” he says. “Time will tell.”

The NewMarket team has held talks with Mayor Ray Nagin’s economic development team, which “has been very instrumental in getting this project off the ground,” NewMarket CEO Philip Verges says in a release about the proposal. “This project will generate jobs in New Orleans, an enhanced market opportunity for quality Chinese manufacturers and a showcase client for NewMarket.”

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