Something about this rubs me very wrong.
A new private investment center being formed in Missoula aims to attract millions of dollars in foreign money to the state by offering visas as incentives to potential overseas investors.
The Northern Rockies Regional Center was recently approved as an Employment-Based Regional Center through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Center founder Arnie Sherman said the designation means the center can offer so-called "EB-5 Immigrant Investor" visas, which allow "high-net individuals" to obtain visas to live in the U.S. in return for investment in American projects.
Basing a center in Montana should vastly increase the amount of private investment money available here, and help connect worthy projects with wealthy foreign investors.
"We have approved investments, and these investments create jobs and do economic development," Sherman said.
There are 50 EB-5 designated centers across the country, and 10,000 visas are set aside for the program each year. USCIS is a branch of the Department of Homeland Security and handles the immigration approvals and project approval for the EB-5 visas.
Once the initial investment is approved, a temporary visa is issued for two years. It is then re-evaluated for more permanent citizenship status after documentation of job creation is provided.
Last year, close to 6,000 EB-5 visas were in use nationwide. That adds up to a lot of money, as each visa requires an investment of $1 million, Sherman said.
"Our business plan goal over the next three to four years is to raise $66 million" in Montana, Sherman said.
Each million is anticipated to create at least 10 jobs in the state, he said.
Projects could involve anything from real estate to multi-use facilities and alternative energy ventures.
"The hard part is not finding the projects. The hard part is that there are only 10 million millionaires in the world. That's our target audience. We want to find 60 of them that are interested in investing in Montana," Sherman said.
The center will be based in Missoula, but will facilitate investments across the state. There could be as many as 10 full-time employees at the center when it's fully operational, Sherman said.
The office of Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., worked with the World Trade Center, where Sherman is executive director, to secure the designation.
"This is a big win for good-paying jobs in Montana. This is the first regional center in the state of its kind and will open the door to more foreign investment into Montana business ventures without having to use taxpayer dollars," Baucus said in a new release about the center.
Baucus has invited the Northern Rockies Regional Center to participate in the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in Big Sky in May. The meetings bring together representatives, entrepreneurs and millionaires from 21 countries.