They may not be ski resorts, luxury hotels, or professional sports stadiums, but two EB-5 visa projects are turning heads in New England ? at least at the local level.
In both Massachusetts and Vermont, local news sources are covering progress at two relatively new EB-5-funded efforts. One involves redeveloping a piece of troubled real estate while the other, according to the community's NBC affiliate, is already helping one company introduce new products and enjoy renewed growth.
New life for an old industrial site?
According to the Taunton Daily Gazette in Taunton, Massachusetts, at least 50 Chinese EB-5 investors are set to fund the redevelopment of Whittenton Mills, a long neglected industrial area.
The site consists of 42 acres that, in recent years, have been home to a number of flea market tenants. Other operations ? most notably a mixed martial arts school and leather shop ? have been caught renting space illegally, and the property is apparently becoming "a real thorn in the side" of the local fire department due to a high number of false alarms.
In January, multiple sprinkler pipes burst, destroying several flea market vendors' merchandise. To say the property is in poor condition would be a bit of an understatement.
Now the Shanghai-based investment firm Harmonia Capital is set to use $25 million in EB-5 visa financing to construct "market-rate apartments, an assisted living facility and make repairs and improvements to existing structures for light-industrial tenants." It was from Kao Li, the chief business advisor to at least one of Harmonia Captial's U.S. operations that the Taunton Daily Gazette learned the following details:
Li says the 350,000-square-foot Whittenton Mills project will consist of a modern assisted-living facility, an apartment complex with 150 market-rate, two-bedroom units and so-called mixed-use office and light-industrial usage.
He also says the jobs-creation aspect of the project should easily exceed the EB-5 requirement for 50 new jobs. Li foresees the eventual creation of at least 1,000 'direct and indirect' permanent jobs stemming from associated new business growth.
If Li's predictions come true, it would be an ambitious turn-around. It seems that the current owner of Whittenton Mills, David Murphy, has become a source of enormous frustration for the Taunton City Council.
After paying $1.7 million for the property in 2005, a sour economy dashed Murphy's hopes for new housing and business development at the site, and his firm now owes the city back taxes and utility fees in excess of $200,000. If the EB-5 program arrived to save the day, it couldn't have come at a better time for Murphy.
If the project ultimately succeeds, that is.
Power tools and job preservation
Less than a day's drive to the northwest, the town of Winooski, Vermont is celebrating what that state's governor, Peter Shumlin, calls "bringing innovation to products that are going to lead in markets around the world."
According to local NBC affiliate WPTZ, local manufacturer Country Home Products is using EB-5 capital to retain its 200 employees. While the company hasn't actually used the new investment to add positions, CEO Joe Perrotto told the press that "the capital we've attracted" would not have been possible without EB-5 immigrant investor financing.
In January, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) visited the Country Home facility to show his support for the business and advocate for the EB-5 program. As WPTZ explains it:
Sen. Leahy tried out a new high-speed log splitter the company developed with the money. He described it as incredibly smooth and efficient; just the kind of quality manufacturing customers should expect from American businesses, and especially Vermont businesses, Leahy said.
The company makes wood chippers, stump grinders, mowers, chainsaws, and a whole host of other products for the DR Power Equipment line.
In Vermont, the state reviews all proposed EB-5 projects before any promoters push a private placement offering. This makes it "unlike most other regional center programs," according to Governor Shumlin.