One island in the Zadar region is about to get a large cash injection filled with American dollars…
Although American investments in Croatia can be counted on the fingers of just one hand, this one is of particular interest.
As Ana Blaskovic/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 15th of October, 2018, over the past few days, Croatia has been visited by a delegation of American entrepreneurs who talked business with domestic businessmen. Among them is Jeffory Blackard, CEO of Blackard Global and co-owner of the Zero Global Waste company. Blackard has announced a strategic partnership and is entering into the ownership of the CIOS waste management project, and plans to inject 500 million euro into the Pašman Riviera project.
You are part of an American business delegation in Croatia. What is the reason for your arrival?
I came to Croatia for two reasons; for the finalising of negotiations with CIOS on cooperation on the Zero Waste project, and for the investment on the island of Pašman. We want to launch new technology in waste management that will bring a revolution from its success. We believe that there will be no landfills in the future and we hope that in the next 90 days our technology will be in Croatia, and that Croatia will be the headquarters for Europe. We’ve been negotiating with CIOS for six months now.
How does that technology work and how big of an investment is it?
This technology allows for the processing of communal waste similar to coal material, and can then be used as an energy source for fossil fuels or cement plants. Since there are no new emissions, the waste can be processed in the CIOS facility, for example in Varaždin. Over the next 12 months, we’ll invest about 100 million dollars, and in the next five years, if we win 20 percent of the market, and it should be more than that, we could be working with 3 billion dollars. Behind this technology stands one person from Connecticut, a genius who worked for Lockheed Martin, but I can’t say his name.
In which phase is the Pašman project?
We’ve passed the pre-qualification phase of the tender and have a meeting with local authorities to show them our vision of the project. If the negotiations are completed within 90 days, construction can begin in the coming years.
Why did you choose Croatia, and more specifically, why did you pick the island of Pašman?
I came to Croatia for the first time 20 years ago, I liked the way of life here, I studied places from the coast all the way to Vukovar. Although I really love the architecture, it’s not about that, but about the interaction, of the philosophy that people live together, the rich with the poor, which isn’t the case in the United States. When I returned to America, I built a settlement similar to that of Supetar on Brač, on which I spent several hundred million dollars.
How did your fellow citizens accept this idea?
It was terrible at the beginning, everyone thought I was crazy, but when the site was built, then it was completely sold out. The prices are such that someone who washes pots in a restaurant kitchen and someone who made 20 million dollars last year can live together. This affirmed the philosophy that all of us can and should live together, and that the segregation of people based on their earnings destroys the world.
What would this settlement look like?
They’re looking for 5000 beds and a concession of 99 years at the tender. I’d like to recreate, for example, either Vis or Supetar, a settlement with different prices that can be afforded by the average citizen, or someone who can afford to spend 25,000 dollars a night. I came to the idea because I think that overbuilding destroys the coast and doesn’t solve the problem of the season’s extension. I want to be able to provide everything in the village; from sports facilities, medical tourism, cathedrals, chapels, fish markets, boules, water parks, restaurants, dentists… So someone who comes there thinks it’s an old place. The building area is about 70 hectares with 140 acres of open space. This is not nearly enough because the village can grow two to three times from the original tender.
Who are your target guests?
If you have something big enough to offer to the market and enough things to do during the winter, people will come. Although it isn’t part of this tender, one of the things we want to build is a really good golf course. There’s a philosophy here that if you buy land and build a playground, it will be successful. But golf courses in America create value for the surrounding land, if they had to pay for the land, then the investment wouldn’t make any sense. Secondly, golf requires 50,000 holes, which is impossible to achieve in Croatia, so you have to have enough critical mass to cover the losses of the golf course. The mistake is that golf courses are built in the interior; why would I come here and not play golf on the beach? That doesn’t make any sense. The construction of a golf course isn’t something that is in the existing tender, but we will look for enough land to build it on in the future.
How much do you intend to invest?
We believe that the first phase is about 100 million dollars, but the project has the potential to grow into a billion-dollar investment. I think that building a resort here makes no sense, if you have a season of four to five months in length, then the accounts don’t hold water. My approach is completely different, I want to achieve it so that the price of accommodation creates enough critical mass for an additional offer that will then go on to extend the season. The properties wouldn;t be for sale, but for rent, because we want to control the project and hold onto the so-called “disney philosophy” where we’re the ones who take care of everything.
Many projects have failed because of the resistance of the local population and the government, what are your experiences so far?
Corruption is a problem, we all know that and we’re trying to reduce the risks. There’s no real reason why Americans should invest in Croatia when they can invest in Texas. Pašman is a small island, and when we talked to local authorities, they were very excited about the project, partly because of what I did in the US, and what I presented to them in terms of what I want to do.
Have you noticed any difference in the business climate in Croatia today when compared to 20 years ago?
I’ve had two bad experiences in Croatia so far, eight years ago. I’m not going to mention names, but it was to do with corruption. Maybe the same thing is going to happen again this time. Everyone wants Americans to come and invest, which is a positive thing, especially when we talk about national security, because Americans do take good care of what they own. America must find a way to encourage investment in Croatia because of our own national security, because Croatia is the most strategically important in the region. What we’re missing are individual investments, not from big companies which would be here anyway, but from individuals who have influence in the political system. You saw who I arrived with, the two most politically influential people aside from President Trump: one almost became the President in 2012 (Rick Santorum) and another who is very influential with the current president (Gentry Beach, the vice president of Trump’s national campaign).
You want to create a place where the rich and the poor will live door to door, but the philosophy of the people with whom you arrived in Croatia implies the segregation of people. Rick Santorum is known for his extremely conservative attitudes. Do you share his views?
Rick Santorum is a conservative but he’d live in that place. I’d say that I’m independent. But on the other hand, I believe that the state has destroyed our country by segregating people and is therefore responsible for fixing the situation. I believe in the word of God and share the beliefs of everything that is written in the Bible.