EB-5 visa program brings foreign investment to valley

The story of the Great Recession’s effect on development is well-worn by now: Banks stopped lending, so developers couldn’t get capital to build, so construction and real estate shed workers. Unbuilt projects changed hands until someone had the capital to finish them.

But in hindsight, some say the recession launched a previously unpopular program of the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services into the mainstream — and in return, foreign investors buoyed development, especially in the Inland Empire.

That program was the Immigrant Investor Program, better known as EB-5. Through it, the government awards green card applications to wealthy investors who pour $1 million into development projects and create 10 permanent, full-time jobs.

“At the time that the (county) was starting to pursue EB-5 (investment), our region desperately needed job creation as well as development,” said Heidi Marshall, commissioner of foreign trade. “We were looking at any way that we could create new jobs because in 2009, we were still bleeding jobs.”

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