Some people outside of the United States have a lot of money, and some of them would like to live in America.
And by the end of the year, the Capital Region could have a center dedicated to finding foreigners with capital willing to invest in local business in exchange for permission to live in the U.S.
A focused effort to draw foreign investors to the Capital Region could begin by the end of this year if a plan from the Center for Economic Growth is approved.
CEG, an 11-county, Albany-based regional economic development nonprofit, was approved for a $125,000 grant last week by Empire State Development.
It’s a small piece of roughly $16 million in funding announced Sept. 19 by the state that reflects growing interest in the federal EB-5 Immigrant Investor program and what it could mean for the Capital Region.
Created in 1990, the EB-5 program offers a green card in trade for investments of $500,000 in depressed areas or $1 million in other areas.
It’s run by the federal Department of Homeland Security.
“This was a tool that was not in our toolkit,” said CEG Director F. Michael Tucker, who said the offer of U.S. citizenship to business investors represents a big lure for people in other countries.
“It’s very sought after, particularly with the global economy. You’re finding international students are coming to the U.S. from wealthy families,” he said.
Some of these families may want to invest in their children or in their children’s pursuits, and they would make ideal candidates for the program, Tucker said.
The Jay Peak ski resort in Vermont, he said, is a good example of the program’s potential: Through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor program, almost 50 investors from 24 different countries brought about $25 million to the table for a $50 million hotel project at the ski resort.
A center dedicated to luring private investment by foreigners might have come in handy when Chinese Buddhists expressed the desire to invest in Amsterdam about five years ago — they didn’t find much direction and wound up purchasing mostly run-down housing.
There have also been discussions in Schoharie County about investors from Korea eyeing the Sharon Springs baths for redevelopment, but that’s been ongoing for several years now.
CEG already put up the money the state announced last week and hired other entities capable of administering a program and filing an application with the federal government for inclusion and a needed designation.
In order to participate in the regional job-creation goals under the EB-5 program, a region has to develop a Regional Center. CEG’s application calls for Prime Companies to develop a Prime Regional Center.
Cohoes-based Prime Companies works in the fields of corporate real estate, commercial property management, property location and finance and development, Tucker said.
It’s a rigorous, highly regulated program with detailed steps — some aimed at making sure terrorists or others with ulterior motives don’t get involved.
Tucker said he’s optimistic the CEG’s plan will achieve inclusion into the program, and the organization expects to hear back on its application in December.