I am poised in Ussurisk, Primorski Krai’s busy rail junction, on the early morning of 31st July with hours to go before my coach to Suifenhe the Heilongjiang border town dedicated to trade with Russia. This fascinating city has grown from a pleasant village by the Black Dragon River to a bustling quarter million city where nearly everyone speaks Russian, the ruble is an official currency, restaurants sell Russian food and street signs are bilingual.
Last time I went there was 2012, as a simple experiment to test how a westerner could get there overland from Russia. After a debate in the sub-consulate in Vladivostok the Chinese then issued me with single entry visa and I was off for a weekend. This time, armed with a multi-entry visa from the UK I am planning on a two week stay. My local objective is to verify talk in Russia of a mandated 5% of wooden housing to be implemented by 2025. Explore the shopping – fur coats and electronics feature on my list – and try to understand the local Chinese cuisine as served in restaurants.
A significant portion of my time will be spent on my laptop with three aims – Produce a business plan for a 33-residence cottage development where we have been offered 60% of the equity in return for US$ 4.3 million in two stages and which offers a 35% IRR before tax; develop two presentations for delivery on August 19th in HoChiMinh City in Vietnam to a blockchain investor conference and concentrate on studying the Oxford University Said Business School 2018 Blockchain short course programme. I will have three module papers to deliver from Suifenhe, having been granted a 48 hour extension for the first one on the basis of my travel.
Cottage development, I hear you asking. The focus was golf!
The focus is still golf but trying to persuade local landowners and their agents that I need topographical maps with contours showing the nature of the terrain and that they must bear the responsibility for getting the land-use reclassified from, in most cases, agricultural use to commercial, is a time consuming headache.
The housing project with an experienced industrial and retail group let’s us get our feet on the ground, provides some income and allows us to develop a track record and build local experience.
It gives us time to do the due diligence on the golf project and get that right. For over 12 years Primorsky Krai (the local region) has been accumulating dreamers of golf courses, none of whom play golf! With God blowing a wind in our sails, we could be the first championship level course to actually see fruition and have a tee-off!
So what I have charged our local team to do is find land with a minimum size 200 Hectares (equivalent to the Kersewell Estate in Scotland) up to 1000 hectares plus; the vendor must take responsibility for getting land use for hotel, golf course and recreation facilities. This can be in the form of a formal letter from the Land Department. The vendor must provide us with a topographic map of the plot so we can have our golf architects and hotel architects satisfy themselves to its suitability.