Vietnam man buys little piece of American dream


TOWN BOUGHT AT $900,000. In this photo taken Saturday, April 7, 2012, Vietnamese businessman Pham Dinh Nguyen, right, poses with Don Sammons, who was the self-proclaimed "mayor" and sole inhabitant in Buford, Wyo., U.S.A. Nguyen, 38, flew to the U.S. for the first time, drove to a tiny, frigid trading outpost and bought his own piece of the American dream: Buford, Wyoming —population 1. Nguyen's name was not released last week when he won the auction for Buford—billed as the nation's smallest town—but he has since drawn attention in Vietnamese media and on social networks. Many are lauding him for showing the world that Vietnam has moved far beyond war and poverty. (AP Photo/Tuoi Tre Newspaper)

HANOI, Vietnam— Vietnamese businessman Pham Dinh Nguyen flew to the U.S. for the first time, drove to a tiny, frigid trading outpost and bought his own piece of the American dream: Buford, Wyoming — population 1.

Nguyen’s name was not released last week when he won the auction for Buford — billed as the nation’s smallest town — but he has since drawn attention in Vietnamese media and on social networks. Many are lauding him for showing the world that Vietnam has moved far beyond war and poverty.

Nguyen, who bid $900,000 for Buford, runs a trade and distribution company in southern Ho Chi Minh City. He said that although he is not exactly sure what he will do with the town just off Interstate 80, he expects to use it to sell items made in Vietnam.

“Frankly, I just see Buford as part of the United States: A large and potential market for Vietnamese goods,” Nguyen told state-controlled media. “Buford is likely to be the showroom for such goods.”

Nguyen, 38, has been quoted widely by local media since the April 5 sale, but he did not respond to emailed requests for comment from The Associated Press or return phone messages left with his company, International Distribution Services. An employee confirmed that Nguyen bought the town.

His purchase impressed many Vietnamese. Businessman Tran Thanh Tung said Friday in Hanoi that he was “surprised, but also proud.”

It’s “something that one could not imagine few years ago,” he said.

Buford consists of a gas station and convenience store, a 1905 schoolhouse, a cabin, a garage and a three-bedroom house on 10 acres between Cheyenne and Laramie.

The town was formed as the Transcontinental Railroad was built in the 1860s. Up to 2,000 people lived there before the railroad was rerouted. Now, it’s more of a stop off the busy interstate for passers-by eager to get a snapshot with the green road sign that reads “Buford, Pop 1.”

A VIETNAMESE OWNS THIS. In this Jan. 1, 2011 file photo, Buford resident Don Sammons stands in front of the population sign in Buford, Wyo. Vietnamese businessman Pham Dinh Nguyen, who bid $900,000 for Buford, runs a trade and distribution company in southern Ho Chi Minh City.(AP Photo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Michael Smith)

The remote property is 8,000 feet above sea level, and Nguyen said that when he visited this month on his first trip to the U.S. that, “waves of skin-cutting cold blew into my face.”

“However, I was undeterred because of the desire to own this town,” he said.

Nguyen put down $100,000 and will have 30 days to complete the purchase. He says family members in the U.S. are helping to finance the investment, which will help overcome barriers faced back home.

Vietnam is a communist country with strict laws and a maze of red tape — foreigners, for instance, are forbidden from owning property here — and any land bought outside the country requires government approval and a license to transfer money abroad.

Not everyone in Vietnam thinks Buford is a smart buy.

Hanoi student Nguyen Hoang said it was “nonsense to invest such a large amount of money to buy a town in the middle of nowhere.”

“It would make more sense if he invested the money in Vietnam to create jobs for his countrymen,” he said.

The town was sold by Don Sammons, the self-proclaimed “mayor” who owned it for the past two decades and was its sole inhabitant. He now plans to retire and write a book about his life there.

Sammons served a tour in Vietnam from 1968-69 as a U.S. Army radio operator, and said at the time of the sale that his life has come full circle.

Nguyen is from the city formerly known as Saigon, the U.S.-backed capital of South Vietnam that fell to the northern communists in 1975, ending the Vietnam War. Some 58,000 Americans died, along with an estimated 3 million Vietnamese.

But much has changed in Vietnam since the days of bombs and jungle guerrilla fighting. It has attracted many American businesses and emerged as one of the fastest-growing countries in Asia, with people who once went hungry grabbing onto every opportunity available. Even in small-town America.

“To be honest, I do not have a specific plan for the town,” Nguyen said. “But I think we Vietnamese should not feel inferior. Nothing is impossible!”

Associated Press writer Tran Van Minh contributed to this report from Hanoi. Follow Margie Mason at

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  • edgar

    that’s the spirit!

  • tra6Gpeche

    Just like the Chinese, Vietnamese people are hardworking and good entrepreneurs. It seems to be in their DNA to be a businessman. Filipinos do not seem to have the same skill and talent for business. More power to Mr. Pham Dinh Nguyen a guy from a country used to be called South Vietnam. Making it in America is possible if one is hardworking, honest and disciplined.

    • Valentin

      Filipinos are born to work or get employed.  But certainly very hardworking.

      In the U.S. Filipinos ( Filipino Americans) is 2nd richest Asian,  next to Asian Indian. Vietnamese Americans belong to the poorer Asian Americans.

      Search Asian American Statistics and Demographics

      • tra6Gpeche

        I agree kabayan. Almost every immigrant from Asia, including Fil-Am, is hard working individual. Filipinos have different talent & skill. Many succeed by working in different companies and by also working in the government. But as far as being a businessman or being an entrepreneur, I would say Filipinos are behind the Chinese, Vietnamese and Asian-Indian. Most of the Vietnamese came to America in 1975 and as far as I can see, there are already many family stores and restaurants in the Bay Area of San Francisco County owned by Vietnamese-Americans. Filipinos started coming to America way back Carlos Bulosan time sometime in 1927. It was told that the first person from the country we call now Philippines arrived in America during the Galleon trade. As far as I can see, there are only very few successful Filipino businesses in the Bay Area. As far as being richer, I can not say for sure. But you may be right. Please correct me if I am wrong.

      • Valentin

        The Chinese have been in America since time immemorial as laborers building the railroad tracks.  The Japanese too were old timers in farmlands in American soil doing labor work  and are the most assimilated.  But none of these two beat Filipinos when it comes to income, home ownership, degree, etc……Other Asians like  Koreans, Viets, Cambos, Laos people, Hmongs… it, none of them beat Pinoys in income. I suggest check Asian American Statistics and Demographics…..Google it.  Filipino Americans even beat White Americans.  Blacks are at the bottom followed by Hispanics. 

        But this does not mean we shun ourselves from diversifying.  WE OUGHT TO BECOME ENTREPRENEURS TOO.  THAT’S A MUST. Too many job seekers in the Philippines with too little Job makers (Entrepreneurs) created a lopsided situation.  Now we go out to other nations to seek jobs.

        By the way, Filipinos in the east coast are not too keen on establishing shops and restaurants, that’s why you don’t normally see them around. They do have businesses too, mostly health care related.  They own Nursing Homes and Medical Transport Companies.

        I heard way back, not too long ago, there was this Pinoy artist in ‘Pinas (probably a musician), who’s promoting Filipino entrepreneurship. One Osmena guy in the Visayas was also promoting it. 

        The general Filipino population are hard workers.

        If there’s anyone bringing shame to Filipinos….It’s our politicians.

      • tra6Gpeche

        Kabayan, I do not disagree with you on anything you said. My only comment was that the Vietnamese, generally speaking, have the innate ability to be more successful than Filipinos on being entrepreneur. This is based on what I see on where I am. When it comes to who makes more money, I can only tell you that I am no expert on that and I would be lying to you if I say anything about this. I know that Chinese built the transcontinental railroads. I worked for one of this Railroads…Southern Pacific Railroad Company for 27 years and worked there as Sr. Rate & Division. Now, that Company is called Union Pacific Railroad located in Omaha, Nebraska. Just like you, I would like the next Fil-Am generation to be an entrepreneur someday. But don’t get me wrong. Having any decent and honest job where one is happy is the best as far as I am concerned. Money is only secondary. Happiness and self-satisfaction are the goal of many American children be it Asian Americans, Caucasian Americans, Hispanics Americans, Black Americans and others. This is what I notice about these Americans. In the Philippines, generally speaking, parents dictate the future of their children. This is why if the parents in the Philippines are crooks, the children will more or less become crooks and sometimes become more crook than their parents. As far as the Philippine politicians are concerned, just see all the Pinays leaving the Philippines to go to Middle East, a very dangerous place to work as housemaids of the Arabs. This will tell you how terrible, greedy and corrupt the Philippine politicians are. And these politicians have this unbelievable stolen wealth by working in the Philippine government. Now-a-days, to work in the Philippine government means getting filthy rich in no time at all.

  • Rene V

     being an employee does not make one less a person than a businessman. everybody is equal under the American sun. you forgot the Pinoy doctors who are part of the big medical centers either in research, teaching or in practice either they are employees or own their own practice. we have our very own nurses who do well as employees as well as teachers, engineers even artists. we should go for what we are good at. let the next generation go into entrepreneurship if that is what they want and that is what they are good at…

    • tra6Gpeche

      Nobody is saying that a businessman is a better person than an ordinary employee or even a janitor earning an honest living. Of course, in the beautiful and advance country like USA, everybody is equal under the light of the powerful and amazing Sun. In America, having a good character, being hardworking and honest human beings are the norm. Also in America, young adults learn how to be independent and not depend on the earnings of their parent. These children find job that would make them happy, instead of the job or work that would give them more money wherein they are not 100% happy. Parents in America do not tell their children what job they should be looking for. Everyone knows happiness & contentment in their chosen career is the number one goal of these American children (Asians, Blacks, Caucasian or what have you). For them, money is only secondary. This is one of the most glaring differences between Filipino children in the Philippines and Filipino children in America. Most Filipino children, if not all, in the Philippines are almost always dependent on their parent’s money and always under the dictate or command of their parent. In America, this will be very abnormal. This is why if the Philippine parents are crooks, most likely the children will even become more crook. As for being a businessman or entrepreneur based in my experiences and what I see around me, generally speaking, Chinese and Vietnamese have the DNA to be one. If a Filipino becomes an entrepreneur or businessman, then he/she is the exception as today. But as you said, being one does not make them any better person than those who are not. Everybody should be judged for what they do in life no matter what it is.

  • ChameleonO

    There is no more American dream. NO MORE. Mostly jobless, the Americans are now coming to Asia to find jobs they cannot secure in America. They go to Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam, Hongkong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

    Of course, Vietnam is far better than the sick Philippines. Their bullet train is starting in 2015. See? It’s the second largest exporter of rice in the world! The Philippines is the mother land of outrigger bancas and carabao-plowing rice fields growing syndicated rice species with artificial fertilizer and pesticides.


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