Angelique Brunner Op-Ed : Mend, Don’t End, the EB-5 Program
April 6, 2017
Washington can be a tough place to read. Even so, there’s a policy debate at hand that I find puzzling.
We have a new president who has boldly promised to create 25 million jobs over the next decade and a conservative Congress deeply concerned with reducing the tax burden on the American people and addressing the national debt. And yet there is a federal program on the books right now that answers all calls but faces possible expiration on the eve of the Trump administration’s 100-day mark.
How could that be?
The EB-5 program puts Americans to work. According to a recent Commerce Department study, in fiscal year 2012-2013 alone, global EB-5 investors provided $5.8 billion in foreign capital to invest in 562 projects in communities from California to Alabama and created an estimated 174,039 jobs. That’s a hefty economic punch for a program that operates at no cost to taxpayers.
Yet, unless Congress acts quickly, the EB-5 Regional Center program will expire on April 28. For 27 years, EB-5 has been repeatedly reauthorized with large, bipartisan majorities. Now, some vocal critics — and classic Washington intransigence — threaten the survival of the program and the jobs it helps to create.
I founded my company, EB5 Capital, in 2007 to put some of this foreign capital to work in America’s disadvantaged communities and to support living-wage job creation. Building the company during the economic downturn gave me a unique perspective on the lack of liquidity in certain capital markets and the importance of a flexible, independent source of capital for economic development projects.
Through the EB-5 program, my company has helped to end “food deserts” in our nation’s capital, financed hotels to support a growing international airport, and invested in new retail, residential and senior living facilities that have helped restore abandoned historic properties and revitalize long-neglected neighborhoods. EB-5 investment in these projects across five states has created a snowball effect that has enabled other developers, businesses, and communities to flourish in neighborhoods that have often been bypassed because businesses couldn’t get access to capital. Our investments have anchored more than $2.4 billion of development that has created more than 23,000 American jobs.
My success with the program is not unique. EB-5 has helped to fund projects in urban, rural and suburban communities across a diverse range of industries, including energy production, charter schools, and manufacturing plants. It’s also helped to create thousands of jobs through infrastructure projects across the country. Whether it’s manufacturing zero-emission battery-powered buses in South Carolina, redeveloping closed military bases in California, investing in Philadelphia’s public transportation system or rebuilding the Brooklyn Navy Yard, EB-5 has provided critical financing to bolster our nation’s infrastructure.
As in any maturing industry over nearly three decades, there have occasionally been a few bad actors who have abused the program. That’s deeply unfortunate and why our broad-based EB-5 Investment Coalition has long argued that reform is needed to allow EB-5 to continue to do what it does best — help communities spur economic investment and create jobs. While the program’s multi-layered screening process is already substantially more robust than that of any other employment-based visa program, we’ve advocated for the passage of broad reforms that would prevent fraud, protect national security and strengthen the program. These reforms should be debated, voted on and passed through the legislative process — but the clock is ticking.
President Trump has made clear that job creation is his administration’s number- one priority. While ultimate passage of any EB-5 reform and reauthorization obviously rests with Congress, we believe an agreement is within reach and eminently doable by the April 28 deadline. Marking Trump’s first 100 days with anything less would be disconcerting — even in Washington.