The EB-5 program, a U.S. immigration initiative that awards green cards to foreigners who invest in American companies, has seen unprecedented success since its inception in 1990. In just 23 years, this program has created approximately 49,000 jobs and attracted more than $2.4 billion in direct foreign investment. Unfortunately, not a single one of these jobs – and not a single dollar of investment – has come to Rhode Island, and that has to change.
Given the vibrant small-business community and emphasis on innovation throughout Providence, I believe this city would be an ideal location for an EB-5 regional center. Fortunately, there is now a proposal we should all get behind. Pathway Capital Partners, a local investment firm, is petitioning the federal government to open an EB-5 center in Providence, joining the 218 regional centers already operating from New York to Hawaii. As the former lobbyist for the city, I worked to advance this proposal with the strong support of the Rhode Island congressional delegation. I urge the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to approve it.
Rhode Island is a strong candidate for this program, with financial challenges from the recession still lingering and one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. It is unacceptable that there is not a single EB-5 center currently operating in the Ocean State. I am proud to stand with Pathway Capital in fighting to make this center a reality.
EB-5 is designed to aid in the citizenship process for anyone who invests $500,000 or more in a U.S. company that creates or preserves at least 10 jobs. It’s not difficult to envision all the good that this has the potential to do for Providence and the state. Everything from the creation of low-income housing projects to road construction, public works and more can be funded through this program, and it comes at absolutely no cost to the taxpayer. This truly is the exemplar of a win-win scenario. It provides much-needed support for businesses throughout the state, while at the same time helping to create legal pathways to citizenship that make Rhode Island a more exciting and culturally diverse place to live.
The days of congressional earmarks and pork barrel spending are over. We live in a time in which we need to get creative about bringing federal dollars into our state, and the EB-5 program is the perfect way to do it. The Obama administration already has trumpeted the success of this program and spoken about the need for its expansion, and I can think of no better place to start than the creation of a new regional center here in Providence. •
Brett Smiley is the founder of CFO Compliance, a campaign-finance firm, and the former chairman of the Providence Water Supply Board.