From Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Venture Seeks Chinese Investment In Wisconsin
Visa Benefit Could Make Metro Area More International
By JOHN SCHMID
Posted: May 28, 2008
Scott Harrison wants Milwaukee to look back in 10 or 15 years and admire the economic contributions of its Chinese community with the same appreciation it reserves for the breweries of a previous generation.
Harrison belongs to a small clutch of investors who on Wednesday launched a private-equity fund that seeks Chinese investment in southeastern Wisconsin. The program uses a federal program that grants U.S. residency rights to qualified foreigners who create at least 10 jobs by investing within the metro area.
Milwaukee entrepreneur Robert Kraft is leading the venture, called FirstPathway Citizenship Fund, which cleared its final legal and bureaucratic hurdles this week.
Kraft and Harrison see the fund as a way to build the Chinese community in Milwaukee, making the city more international and linking it more closely to the movement of people and capital around the world.
If Milwaukee fails to connect with the Asian economy, "the region will be left behind," Kraft said.
The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and deals with a category of visa called the EB-5. While many classes of U.S. visas are oversubscribed - leaving U.S. employers and universities chafing at the inability to recruit workers from abroad - Washington seldom reaches its cap of EB-5 visas.
Qualified investors receive a green card if they invest at least $1 million in the FirstPathway fund, which in turn will plow the funds into projects inside the seven-county immigration-investment zone.
Some have called them "million-dollar visas" because they are meant for wealthy foreigners. The EB-5 program also allows for investors to qualify with $500,000, but that limits their investment into rural or distressed urban zones. Kraft said he wanted the latitude to invest in projects across the area.
Harrison, a former station chief for the Central Intelligence Agency in Beijing, runs a consultancy in China and will help set up offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong to line up investors for the fund.
"Now, for the first time in Chinese history, they have that feeling of the American Dream," Harrison said.
He said those who will seek the visas will be "well educated and driven," drawn by America's world-class universities for their children as well. "That's where you get your growth in creating a Chinese community," Harrison said.
Harrison said Chinese firms have begun to explore buying American firms in a reversal of conventional trends.
"This is a great tool for economic development," he said.
The U.S. has 17 active EB-5 zones, but Milwaukee's is the only one in the Midwest that is meant for urban and industrial investment. The closest are in Iowa and South Dakota, and both of those are meant for rural and agricultural investment.
In This Section
- Asian Funds Sought For Redevelopment
- Greenbacks in Return for Green Cards
- Milwaukee Banking on Basketball Player
- Attracting Chinese Investment
- Venture Seeks Chinese Investment
- Local Business Leaders Give Olympic Insight
- United Hemispheres Magazine
- The Chinese are 'changing us'
- Yijun Tang Hosts Milwaukee Delegation
- US Investment Emigration Gains in Popularity Rapidly
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