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Case Study: Regional Economic Development Organization

Recognizing Big Opportunities and Navigating a Complex Federal Approval Process

During a trip to China with Governor Mitch Daniels in 2008, a member of Beijing’s Chamber of Commerce asked Roy Budd about the federal EB-5 program. Budd is the founder and executive director of economic development group Energize-ECI in Muncie, and “EB-5” was not a term with which he was familiar. Back home, Budd began digging and quickly discovered that the EB-5 Regional Center model could be a game-changing tool to help bring jobs to East Central Indiana. He also learned that the road to being approved as a Regional Center would be a long, challenging one.

Congress created the EB-5 immigrant visa category in 1990 for qualified foreigners with an interest in business investments in the United States. The basic amount required to invest is $1 million, although that amount is reduced to $500,000 if the investment is made in a rural or high unemployment area through a designated Regional Center.

Andy Gruber became interested in the EB-5 Regional Center concept in the mid 2000s. As its potential to bring jobs to areas of Indiana wracked by high unemployment began to become clear, the wheels started to turn. Gruber is a partner at Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP who practices in the areas of labor and employment law. He started initiating conversations outside of his office in 2007, exploring who would be good partners, what the project would look like and where it could take a community if an EB-5 Regional Center designation were awarded.

“When I brought the concept of an EB-5 Regional Center to Energize-ECI, Roy and his team jumped on it and invested an incredible amount of time and effort to get it done,” Gruber says. “They were organized correctly to carry this out, which was their biggest advantage.” In August 2011, following a 17-month process and an application that ran more than 1,100 pages, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approved the creation of the Energize-ECI EB-5 Visa Regional Center, LLC.

Energize-ECI had to show the USCIS that the region could offer multiple EB-5-compliant investment opportunities in new or qualifying existing commercial enterprises in target industries. That task took the coordination of Gruber and his team at Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP as well other partners including the office of former Indiana Secretary of Commerce Mitch Roob, consultants, researchers and other counsel.

“When you want to get a project of this magnitude to succeed, you have to speak with one voice when it comes to what types of investments and industries you’re looking at. Energize-ECI had the patience and the resolve to go through the process,” Gruber says.

The allure of an EB-5 for cities and towns across the United States is simple. With limited capital available for investors and venture capitalists in the current economy, approved EB-5 projects translate to direct investment in a community. In the case of the Energize-ECI center, foreign investments will focus specifically on rural areas hit particularly hard.

“East Central Indiana needs jobs,” says Tom Farris, a principal in the Energize-ECI EB-5 Visa Regional Center. “The automotive industry and other industries had been strong in the past. We saw EB-5 as a great tool and idea to bring jobs and investment to our area.” While many Regional Centers offer up only one or two target industries, theirs includes six, positioning them to appeal to a broader range of investors.

Such investors are attracted to the EB-5 program for a number of reasons. Having a permanent work visa or “green card” means the cardholder is eligible for advantages that permanent residents have, such as reduced rates for in-state college education. If the foreign national wants to travel freely from the United States to his or her home country, an EB-5 visa makes it possible. This type of visa also puts people on a fast track to citizenship, making it achievable after only five years.

Locally, the desire for EB-5 projects and investments is clear. “The quality of the living in the community will be greatly improved,” Farris says.

Budd is even more straightforward. “The only reason we’re involved in this is job creation. Period. End of discussion.” Budd is taking that resolve around the world, traveling to Asia to network with investment brokers and develop relationships with potential deal makers to take full advantage of the EB-5 Regional Center’s potential. His new role as a facilitator between project developers and potential investors is crucial to the EB-5’s success.

Budd says law firms including Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP will likely become more involved as those business deals start developing. Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP is proud and excited to be a part of East Central Indiana’s economic development.


DISCLOSURE REQUIRED BY CIRCULAR 230. This Disclosure may be required by Circular 230 issued by the Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service. If this article, including any attachments, contains any federal tax advice, such advice is not intended or written by the practitioner to be used, and it may not be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. Furthermore, any federal tax advice herein (including any attachment hereto) may not be used or referred to in promoting, marketing or recommending a transaction or arrangement to another party. Further information concerning this disclosure, and the reasons for such disclosure, may be obtained upon request from the author of this article. Thank you.

  • Partner

    Andy is the Chair of the Labor & Employment Practice Group. Working exclusively in the areas of labor and employment law, Andy provides advice, counsel and litigation defense to employers in all areas of employment law, including ...

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