Could Colorado be the next success story for the EB5 visa program?
Chet Schwartz thinks so. As Managing Director of the newly-approved Colorado Regional Center, Schwartz believes his outfit's development-centered investment immigration projects will appeal to foreign investors for one simple reason ? they stand on their own merits.
"They're good deals," says Schwartz. "They're sensible development deals."
But with the number of USCIS-approved regional centers edging forward each month, the competition for immigrant investors' attention may be stepping up. This summer, USCIS approved the nation's 100th regional center, a noteworthy leap from the roughly 80 or so approved centers listed on its website at the beginning of 2010.
As Schwartz points out, however, only a handful of those regional centers appear to be active, which may leave a larger opening for more serious newcomers eager to have the EB5 visa program fund new initiatives.
An attractive destination for EB5 visa investors?
When it comes to whether the state of Colorado holds any particular appeal to the immigrant investor, Schwartz is confident.
"We think there is some appeal to the international community," he says, noting that "Colorado and the world-class ski areas" are not exactly unknown locales in other parts of the world. Compared to some parts of the country, he adds, "Colorado has a little more pizzaz."
And the projects themselves?
One is an existing initiative ? a mixed-use development in Vail ? which is "already pretty far along," according to Schwartz. Were the Colorado Regional Center to find the EB5 visa investors it's looking for, those dollars would help spur the venture forward.
Another project is planned for Aurora, a Denver suburb where a new hospital complex is currently under construction. New developments near the hospital complex would be the recipients of immigrant investor funding, and Schwartz says the regional center is currently negotiating with developers.
As for selling investors on its proposed initiatives, the regional center is aware that alleged instances of "over-marketing" EB5 visa projects to foreign investors has the Chinese government issuing warnings about the program. But Schwartz says he isn't worried.
"I'm not concerned about it," he says. "We're trying to find [sales] contacts who are honest and straightforward."
Development projects already seen through by Waveland Ventures LLC, Colorado Regional Center's parent company, are listed on the center's website.
Scouting out a TEA
Given the current high rate of unemployment, it may come as a surprise that finding a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) in Colorado is easier said than done.
"The good news for Colorado is that the unemployment rate isn't as high as the national average," says Schwartz. That's why the regional center received approval to take on EB5 visa projects all throughout the state ? in particular those rural areas with populations low enough to qualify as TEA's.
"We're focusing a lot of attention on areas in the mountains," he says. "There is still some zeal for development in the mountains."
If the Colorado Regional Center is successful in its attempts to use investment immigration as a catalyst for new development initiatives in the Centennial State, it will join the relatively small percentage of regional centers in the United States actively managing EB5 visa projects.