Archive for December, 2011

Victorville Loses Final Appeal – Daily Press

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

Written by Brooke Edwards Staggs, City Editor Victorville Daily Press

VICTORVILLE • A federal appeals office upheld the termination of Victorville’s EB-5 visa investor center, leaving the city with no option but to pursue a pricey lawsuit or say goodbye to millions in funding they’d hoped to borrow through the program.

City officials got the news Thursday afternoon, with plans to discuss next steps during the Jan. 17 city council meeting.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approved Victorville’s Regional Center in 2009, allowing foreign nationals to supply at-risk loans to the city so long as that money helped create 10 local jobs. Investors would then be granted U.S. visas and the loans would have to be paid back five years later with interest.

Nineteen people gave Victorville $500,000 each under the program, and the city intended to use that money to pay back restricted funds borrowed from its water department to build the struggling wastewater plant at Southern California Logistics Airport.

Then, in a precedent-setting move, USCIS terminated Victorville’s program in October 2010 due to “material factual discrepancies” in related financial reports.

Victorville sent USCIS additional information and appealed to that office to overturn the decision, but was turned down in May. The city then filed a lawsuit in Washington, D.C. District Court against USCIS, the Department of Homeland Security and several top officials with those agencies, but agreed to pause that civil case as it waited on word from USCIS’s Administrative Appeals Office.

In a letter dated Dec. 21, the AAO affirmed the decision to terminate Victorville’s program.

The appeals office pointed out several fatal flaws in the EB-5 center here, including apparent contradictions between information provided by Councilman Mike Rothschild and the city’s attorneys, conflicts in the timeline of when the city loaned funds versus when it told USCIS they were needed and more.

However, the primary reason for upholding the termination was because Victorville couldn’t prove it had met the EB-5 program’s strict job requirements.

“At issue is whether the alien investors can be credited with job creation when, in actuality, they are merely preserving jobs,” the letter states, pointing out that Victorville said it never spent the loan money but its wastewater plant is already operating.

The city built its wastewater treatment plant primarily using interfund loans, pledging to pay them back in part with EB-5 funds. Now the city has refunded all $9.5 million in loans it had collected and is hoping the regional Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority will buy its plant so it can replenish reserves.

The City Council will discuss whether to move forward with its lawsuit against the federal government during closed session beginning 5 p.m. Jan. 17 in City Hall. The meeting on Jan. 3 has been canceled due to the holidays.

Brooke Edwards Staggs may be reached at (760) 955-5358 or at bedwards@VVDailyPress.com.

South America Heating Up for EB-5 Investment – Sun Sentinel Article

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

The Obama administration has promised to streamline a smart, productive aspect of America’s immigration conundrum. It must follow through.

The EB-5 immigration visa can be a win for South Florida and the United States. It works like this: In return for investing $500,000 in a depressed zone, or in a rural area, or $1 million anywhere else, a foreign national and his family are granted the visa for entry and residence in the United States. If that investment creates 10 jobs for at least two years, that visa becomes permanent.

Since it was implemented in 1990, the program is credited with creating 34,000 jobs. Today, at a time when business financing is tight and unemployment is high, the EB-5 program makes more sense than ever. It is needed more than ever.

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That’s certainly the case in South Florida. To our south, Miami-Dade County has been a hemispheric gateway and crossroads for decades. The recession has been particularly harsh, and the county has one of the highest poverty rates in America.

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Yet, petitions for EB-5 visas from Latin American countries have increased by about 71 percent, with Venezuela and Mexico being the most active. Given South Florida’s deep links to the Americas, a spike in investment from the hemisphere is bound to boost our region more than most other parts of the United States.

What’s more, it’s no coincidence that necessary post-Sept. 11 security restrictions plus the vitriolic debates over immigration reform have curtailed foreign investment and spending in Florida and South Florida, perhaps costing us billions of dollars a year. The delay in approving critical trade treaties with Panama and Colombia didn’t exactly send the most welcoming of messages, either.

Streamlining and expanding the EB-5 program would set a much better tone. And it’s an issue that ought to draw bipartisan support from Democrats and Republicans. Who could be against foreign investment in America to provide jobs and repatriate some of the capital that flows out of the country through deep trade deficits?

Actually, we shouldn’t ask. We shouldn’t tempt anyone.

To properly maximize the program by expanding it will require bolstering some of its features. One area that needs attention are the so-called regional centers that facilitate the foreign investment. Care must be taken to make sure all regional centers are able to assist in turning the investment into jobs and economic gains.

But there’s no doubt the EB-5 program is needed — and especially now.

Copyright © 2011, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Wright Johnson is honored as EB-5 Consultant of the Year for the second straight year

Friday, December 16th, 2011

EB5NewsBlog.org and Brian Su have recently announced that that have chosen Wright Johnson to be their choice as EB-5 service provider of the year.

2011 EB-5 Service Provider of the Year – Wright Johnson, LLC.
EB5NewsBlog.org is glad to announce that Wright Johnson, LLC., has been selected for the 2011 EB-5 Service Provider of the Year Award. Wright Johnson LLC received the same award in 2010!

Wright Johnson, LLC, is a southern Florida based EB-5 consulting firm that specializes in assisting clients in obtaining EB-5 Regional Center designations with the USCIS. The firm is one of the top producing RC application submission providers in 2010. The firm maintains has assisted over 30 regional centers in obtaining USCIS approvals and currently has over 15 pending applications! Congratulations to Mr. Kevin Wright and his professional team. For more information about Wright Johnson, LLC, log on its website at http://wrightjohnsonllc.com.

Clients in the News – American Dream Fund Portland

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Earlier today in the Portland Business Journal Wendy Culverwell wrote the following.

Pearl District developer Homer Williams is teaming with American Dream Fund to build Portland’s first project funded by immigrants seeking green cards to live in the U.S. Williams and American Dream Fund want to build a 225-room Residence Inn by Marriott in the Pearl District at Northwest Ninth Street between Marshall and Northrup. The roughly $22 million to build the hotel will come largely from Chinese investors seeking green cards through the federal EB-5 program.

Established in 1990, EB-5 rewards investors who create jobs in the U.S. with green cards, allowing them to live legally in the U.S. The program is widely used in other parts of the country but is only now being embraced in Oregon.

Williams’ firm, Williams/Dame & Associates, and American Dream Fund will secure investments chiefly from China, which accounts for about 70 percent of EB-5 applications. The Marriott project is the first of what promises to be many immigrant-funded construction projects in the Portland area. Marvin Kau, Portland representative for a separate firm, American United Development, expects to announce its first EB-5 project next week. Williams is forming a another firm, EB5 Global. His daughter, Devin Williams, is president. Spokesman John Mangan said EB5 Global will pursue government accreditation in the coming year to fuel Williams’ own future projects. As Oregon’s first EB-5 project, the Residence Inn by Marriott promises to be as pivotal as some of Williams’ earlier efforts. Regarded as one of Portland’s most influential business leaders, Williams played key roles in the transformation of 34 acres of rail yard into the Pearl District and more recently, the creation of the South Waterfront district at the former North Macadam industrial area. It is unclear how many investors will participate in the Portland Marriott project or how many visas it could generate. EB-5 investors and their immediate families are eligible for green cards. While they could choose to settle in Portland, they are not required to do so.

EB-5 promises to be an important new source of investment dollars for Oregon businesses. American United officials said the firm would invest $100 million in Oregon in its first year when the program won approval last spring. The Residence Inn project unites an all-star development team. Sera Architects designed the six-story, 170,000-square foot project to qualify for LEED Silver certification. Howard S. Wright Constructors , a division of Dallas-based Balfour Beatty, will build it. It will employ several hundred construction workers.

The team submitted designs to the city this month. It cleared a major hurdle Wednesday when the Portland Development Commission agreed to let Hoyt Street Properties sell the site to the hotel team. PDC’s original agreement with Hoyt Street required it to construct a residential project with 30 units set aside as “affordable” to residents earning up to 120 percent of the area median income, or $59,280 for a two-person household. Williams/Dame will break ground in January 2013 and open the hotel, the Pearl’s first hotel, by spring 2014. Williams declined to disclose the project’s budget. It is likely to be around $22 million, based on construction estimate guidelines published by Rider Levett Bucknall. RLB’s fourth-quarter construction cost estimates peg the cost to construct a mid-level hotel in Portland at about $130 per square foot. The hotel project is unrelated to Williams’ separate fundraising activities. Since 2009, he has been associated with 15 separate funds that have collectively raised $28.8 million out of $29.1 million sought, according to Form D filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Williams did not answer questions about the purpose of the funds, which typically are invested to acquire or develop real estate –– his core business. Created by Congress, EB-5 is managed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. Williams is becoming an active EB-5 developer. In March, he will break ground on another Marriott project. The 22-story, 377-room project in downtown Los Angeles is funded by immigrant investors through Seattle-based American Life Inc. The project is separate from the Portland Marriott though several of the principals, including Williams, are involved with both efforts.