2016 SelectUSA Summit: IIUSA Educates Economic Development Organizations, Foreign Investors on Benefits of Utilizing the EB-5 Regional Center Program
By Allen Wolff, IIUSA Associate Director of Marketing and Communications
For the third consecutive year, IIUSA participated in the SelectUSA Investment Summit, the highest-profile event dedicated to promoting foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States. Between June 19-21, more than 2,500 attendees from 70 foreign markets and the U.S including international companies, domestic economic development organizations (EDOs), and a range of other stakeholders gathered in Washington, D.C. to explore job-creating investment opportunities throughout the United States.
What is SelectUSA?
In order to retain and attract new investment to the U.S., the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration launched the SelectUSA Initiative in 2012 to serve as the single point of contact for foreign investors and coordinate with related federal agencies. For companies interested in investing in the U.S., SelectUSA offers services include information and counsel, connections with potential partners and assistance in navigating the U.S. regulatory environment. For U.S. economic development organizations (EDOs), SelectUSA assists with marketing and promotion and investment advocacy to help attract, retain, and grow investment to all regions of the United States.
Over the years, IIUSA has worked closely with SelectUSA in order to promote the EB-5 Regional Center Program as an important component of foreign investment into the U.S. SelectUSA is a staple speaker at IIUSA conferences, and has an ombudsman function for working with other federal agencies when FDI is being frustrated by bureaucratic hurdles – a portfolio that sometimes includes EB-5 processing issues.
IIUSA has had an important role in each of the first three SelectUSA Summits in educating attendees about the EB-5 Program. In 2015, IIUSA Executive Director, Peter D. Joseph, moderated a panel at the SelectUSA Academy, a one-day seminar for U.S. economic development professionals, focusing on EB-5 best practices. Also, at first SelectUSA Summit in 2013, IIUSA Vice President Robert C. Divine spoke on a panel exploring capital availability in the U.S. and the challenges faced by global investors in establishing operations in the United States.
The EB-5 Program is an Increasingly Important Driver of FDI into the U.S. Economy
In 2014, IIUSA pioneered the slogan “EB-5 is Working”. The short yet powerful message has since become a popular Twitter hashtag (#EB5isWorking) and a rallying cry for EB-5 Regional Center industry stakeholders and observers who acknowledge that contributions by the EB-5 Program create thousands of jobs per year and is a vital tool for regional economic development.
FDI plays an essential role in ensuring U.S. economic growth and prosperity – creating high-paying jobs, spurring innovation, and driving exports. In 2015, FDI flows into the U.S. totaled $379 billion according to the Department of Commerce. Moreover, the U.S. has consistently ranked as the top destination for inbound investment, ranking well above competitors China, Canada and Germany in A.T. Kearney’s FDI Confidence Index. In the face of recent global market volatility, international investors continue to look to the U.S. first when decided where to invest or start a business.
Since 2008, the Program’s annual contribution to inbound FDI grew over 1,200% to total almost $4.5 billion in fiscal year 2015 alone. This investment capital is creating tens of thousands of jobs for U.S. workers in diverse communities by funding projects in a wide variety of industry sectors across the country – all at no cost to the taxpayer. In fact, the Program generates much needed tax revenue to the tune of over half a billion dollars in state and local tax revenue and over one billion in federal tax revenue from 2010-2013 alone.
Representing the EB-5 Industry on the Global Stage
As a SelectUSA Summit exhibitor for the second year in a row, IIUSA was proud to serve once again as the EB-5 industry representative at the highest profile international event for FDI promotion hosted in the U.S. Over the course of the conference, IIUSA served several key purpose: to educate EDOs on the benefits of partnering with EB-5 Regional Centers, to introduce the EB-5 Program to foreign investors looking to invest and/or immigrate to the U.S. and to strengthen relationships with officials from federal agencies that oversee the EB-5 Program.
In total, 52 state and local economic development organizations participated, many of whom had exhibit booths. IIUSA staff took the opportunity to connect with each and every state and local office at the Summit to enlist their support of EB-5 reauthorization and answer questions on the practical use of EB-5 investment for economic development projects. Furthermore, IIUSA engaged attendees with its geographic information system (GIS) mapping tools displaying EB-5 project information as well as economic impact and investor origin data.
In addition, dozens of international investors stopped by the IIUSA booth to learn more about the EB-5 Program. The IIUSA staff fielded questions relating to the differences between EB-5 and other employment-based visas, the importance of conducting due diligence on projects and induvial in an EB-5 transaction and more. IIUSA also pointed potential investors to important resources to better understand the fundamental aspects of investing through the EB-5 Program.
Adjacent to the main exhibit hall was Government Pavilion which included booths from federal agencies and offices such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Small Business Administration, The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, U.S. Department of Commerce and others. IIUSA staff made valuable connections with representatives from these agencies and offices and learned about the various services provided by these groups that can be of benefit to the EB-5 industry.
Furthermore, IIUSA was pleased to attend a panel titled “Welcome to the United States: Visas and Beyond” which included Nicolas Colucci, Chief of the USCIS Office of Immigrant Investor Program (IPO). In his remarks to the audience, Chief Colucci addressed the role USCIS plays in the review of applications as well as job creation and “at-risk” requirements of the EB-5 Program. A fundamental understanding of how the EB-5 Regional Center Program works in the context of the broader U.S. immigration system is vital for U.S.-based project developers and foreign investors alike.
The SelectUSA Investment Summit provides an unparalleled opportunity to bring together economic development organizations from every corner of the nation, thousands of international investors as well as other related parties that are working hand-in-hand to facilitate business investment in the United States. Many of the themes that undergird the SelectUSA Investment Summit including the deepening of bilateral investment ties, facilitating U.S. job creation and catalyzing local economic development are also highlighted when discussing the wide-ranging benefits that EB-5 investment is responsible for. We hope to see you next year at the SelectUSA Summit which is already scheduled for June 18-20, 2017 in National Harbor, Maryland.