A program aimed at creating jobs in Western New York while attracting overseas investors is the subject of a forum in Niagara Falls today. The program is called “EB-5” and it’s taken off in recent years in the Buffalo-Niagara region.

WBFO’s Jay Moran spoke with William Gresser, the President of the EB-5 New York State Regional Center, about the program this morning… 

“The whole point of the EB-5 Program, when Congress created the program, was to spur job creation and they do that by allowing overseas investors to invest in projects that create new U.S. jobs,” says William Gresser, President of the EB-5 New York State Regional Center. “When a person does this, he or she can then earn a visa for themselves and their family to come to the U.S.”

Some funding for the Gates Vascular Institute came from overseas investors via the EB-5 capital program.

“What we look for in projects in Western and Upstate New York are those that are going to create a lot of jobs, so that we can have an opportunity for people to invest into them” says Gresser. “Good examples of projects that we have been able to finance and support with EB-5 capital include projects on the medical campus and our first project being the Gates Vascular Institute here in Buffalo and other developments on the medical campus. The reason that we’re able to help support those projects is because of the number of new U.S. jobs that they’re creating.”

Gresser says an EB-5 investor must contribute a minimum of either $500,000 or $1-million-dollars.  He notes investors come from all over the world, adding the single largest country is China. He says though, investors have come from Europe, Asia, Canada and Mexico. 

“There has been a growing interest in the projects here in Western New York from these overseas investors. Part of the reason for that, is the success we’ve had,” says Gresser. “The success is really determined by the jobs that are created. The most important thing for these investors is that they make an investment. In order for them to earn that U.S. visa, they must prove that U.S. jobs were created. Here in Western New York, with the growth in the economy and the tremendous projects that are ongoing, we’re able to offer people investments into projects that have created so many jobs. For example, on the Gates Vascular Institute, which has been not only been successful as a tremendous hospital and a tremendous benefit to the community but also was a very good EB-5 project because of the jobs it created.”

“The growth in Western New York has made it much more attractive for overseas people to identify projects,” notes Gresser. “The role of the state, the role of the medical campus, have been so important to helping the region grow and that growth just leads to additional investors wanting to come here and support job creation projects here.”

Gresser says the EB-5 program was initiated in the early 1990s but it didn’t take off until about 2007-2008 when developers and banks began to realize they could use it to further projects and became accustomed to EB-5 and how they could use it.

Today’s forum on EB-5 Capital is being held at the Conference & Event Center in Niagara Falls.