A new company formed by a group of Tri-State investors could bring $100 million in foreign investment capital to Cincinnati over the next five years.
Kentucky Regional Center LLC, started in March and led by investor Andrew Moffe, is a government-sanctioned investment zone that gives foreign investors a faster path to U.S. citizenship in exchange for their help in financing American business ventures. The regional center is organized under employment-based visa rules and is commonly known as the EB-5 immigrant investor program.
The EB-5 program gives investors a green card in exchange for their capital infusion of up to $1 million in a U.S. company and the creation of 10 new jobs. The program has generated hundreds of millions in foreign investments in recent years and the issuance of investor visas has increased tenfold since 2005.
We hope to work with projects across the region and stimulate growth in multiple locations and industries, said Moffe, director of operations for Midwest EB-5 Regional Center.
The Center will serve the entire Tri-State. The new regional center, based in Florence, is one of dozens created nationally since the program’s inception. It’s the first Kentucky-based center to be authorized to seek foreign investment capital and it’s the first to do business in the Cincinnati area Midwest EB-5 Regional Center defines its geographic scope as Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties in Northern Kentucky and Hamilton, Butler, Warren and Clermont in Ohio.
Dayton, Ky.’s Manhattan Harbour project is one development that is specifically authorized to receive capital from the new venture, but organizers stress their activity won’t be limited to that project. This is a $900 million development announced in 2008, projected to produce 2,000 residential units and 230,000 square feet of retail, hotel and office space
It was a financial adviser to the Manhattan Harbour project that first drew Moff’s attention to the EB-5 program. Moffe and Terry Chan, CEO of C&M Investment Group, are both former finance executives with General Electric Co. Chan helped secure $89 million in tax increment financing commitments for the 142-acre riverfront development in 2009. Moffe said Chan is a Hong Kong native who will participate with Moffe and Darpel in a midsummer marketing tour of several Chinese cities and Seoul, South Korea.
We’re in discussions with several groups that have the capacity to bring in 30, 40, 50 investors at a time, Moffe said. These investors are looking for anything from real estate to manufacturing type projects.
Solo-practice attorney Paul Darpel incorporated the regional center as a Kentucky Regional Center LLC in March. The group has been working on its application for 18 months. Its startup was financed by a group of four investors that includes Moffe, who declined to name the others. Moffe and Darpel, the company’s general counsel, are the only two employees so far.
Looking for good projects
It’s very labor-intensive, very technical, Darpel said of the company’s formation to date. But we’ve got people that believe in it, and are willing to put up some funds to make it happen. It was a significant dollar investment from folks to get this thing done.
EB-5 regional centers can be a powerful tool for attracting investment capital because they can reduce by years the amount of time it takes for an alien to secure U.S. citizenship, said Martin Lawler, a San Francisco-based immigration attorney who advised the Kentucky Regional Center on its startup.
There have been a number of very successful regional centers that have raised hundreds of millions of dollars,Lawler said. There are many regional centers that haven’t gotten off the ground yet. They’re looking for good projects, trying to get their marketing together.
Seattle as a benchmark
Lawler said one of the most successful regional centers is in Seattle, where investor Henry Liebman has renovated dozens of buildings with foreign investment capital. A regional center in New York recently announced that it raised $60 million to renovate a Brooklyn shipyard. EB-5 investments have financed film-industry projects in Los Angeles and a ski resort in Vermont, Lawler said.
Use of the EB-5 program sharply increased during the recession, as traditional capital sources dried up for U.S. companies. Figures from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the government agency that regulates EB-5 programs, indicate 3,688 people were granted EB-5 visas in 2009, a tenfold increase over 2005.
Developer Dave Imboden hopes the new regional center will bring new investment capital to Manhattan Harbour.
It’s a great financing tool, Imboden said. We’re ready to cut deals and break ground and start moving.
email@example.com | (513) 337-9438