From the home of the Brooklyn Nets to a ski resort in northern Vermont and an office building in downtown New Bedford, enterprises across the country are cashing in on the global desire to live in the United States.
Through a U.S. immigration program that awards green cards, or permanent residency, to foreigners in exchange for job-creating investments, American businesses have raised more than $2.4 billion in direct international capital since 1990.
Use of the program, known as EB-5, has soared recently. In the last two years alone, $903 million in foreign investment was raised through EB-5.
But despite its focus on job creation and growing popularity, EB-5 hasn’t produced a single dollar of investment in Rhode Island, where the unemployment rate has lingered at or near the nation’s highest since the recession.
Now a group of Rhode Island-based financial professionals, Pathway Capital Partners LLC, intends to change that.
Led by Henry M. Diamond, founder of alternative mortgage lender HDC Inc. of Providence, Pathway Capital is in the final stages of the lengthy federal approval process to become a designated EB-5 “regional center.”
The vast majority of EB-5 investments take place through regional centers, which are allowed to bundle foreign investors into groups and act as a broker between them and American businesses looking to raise money.
Projects organized by regional centers can also count anticipated “indirect jobs” created by a project to qualify for a visa.
There are 218 regional centers across the country but none in the Ocean State.
“It seemed like a glaring absence – we kind of scratched our head as to why there wasn’t one here,” Diamond said. “There had been grumblings about it here, but no one actually went into the process. We decided to capitalize an entity and apply for a regional center because Rhode Island has [one of the] highest unemployment rates in the country, which makes it a prime candidate.”
Diamond said his struggle accessing capital for HDC convinced him of the need for foreign investment.