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Don’t Let the Sun Set On Investor Visa Program

Written by Jillian Fortuna, COO, EB-5 Jobs for Massachusetts
This article was originally published in the July 11th edition of the the Boston Business Journal

Between the decrease in unemployment and an upswing in consumer spending, recent indicators have signaled an improvement in our nation’s economic health. But where the analysts can point to quarterly ebb and flow as progress, too often the rest of us on the ground floor still feel the drag of 2008. And while our banks and financial institutions look to be growing in stability, investment in local development projects is still slow-going.

Which is why Massachusetts — where resilience isn’t just an adage, it’s a way of life — has found so much value in the EB-5 Regional Center investor visa program. The Immigrant Investor Program, also known as “EB-5,” pools investments from qualified foreign investors to spur development and construction for projects that might otherwise languish in the fundraising process.

For the EB-5 program to work, it has to grow employment. The program requires that each investment demonstrate the creation of at least 10 new jobs, which is what makes EB-5 a doubly effective economic driver.

Massachusetts, not surprisingly, is ahead of this game. Just last year, the EB-5 Jobs for Massachusetts regional center completed the renovation of Studio 52 in Boston’s Allston neighborhood. The site had been a defunct clothing factory and a blight to historic Everett Street. By partnering with local developers, EB5MA helped raise almost half of the $2.5 million needed to convert the space into a contemporary music recording and community artist space. The studio is now a needed resource for students and the local music industry, and has added nearly 80 jobs to the Allston workforce.

Former Mayor Tom Menino’s favored Innovation District in South Boston is also seeing the advantages of EB-5 investment. Renowned restaurateur Seth Greenberg is opening Bastille Kitchen, part of a mixed-use building developed in partnership with EB5MA. The French bistro, which cost $3.5 million to develop, offers two stories of dining space and seating for 240. Bastille Kitchen is one example of the trendy, first-rate businesses now contributing to the revitalization of not only the Fort Point river walk, but to the local Seaport economy as a whole.

Clearly, Massachusetts is seeing evidence of this return to growth and development, but it’s equally important to keep the momentum going. Since the EB-5 program has been authorized by Congress for over 20 years (and championed by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy at its inception), one of the best ways to ensure continued development and investment in our region is by encouraging congressional members to support its permanent authorization well in advance of its September 2015 “sunset” date.

Jillian Fortuna was a panelist at ICIC’s July 1st convening, Impact Investing in Inner Cities: Putting Foreign Capital to Work Through EB-5.  At the convening Jillian shared the pride and pitfalls of structuring an EB-5 deal, pulling from EB-5 Jobs for MA’s experience completing smaller developments in Allston and New Bedford and its current effort supporting the redevelopment of a historic building in Boston’s Seaport District.  At the convening, ICIC released new research on using EB-5 to increase economic opportunity in distressed urban communities. 

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