I recently participated in a great meeting hosted by the Westside Branch of the NAACP concerning capital investment in poor communities.

Branch president Karl Brinson challenged us to think beyond the norm concerning how to bring needed capital investment to economically disadvantaged communities like Austin, and not waiting for someone to fly in and save our community.

The obvious would be pooling our resources together towards targeted projects — NOT HAPPENING ANYTIME SOON! Why? Because it would have happened already; but, it can, eventually. I believe it can happen if we continue to challenge ourselves to think without a box.

Why not take advantage of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program administrated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Per the USCIS.org website, the “USCIS administers the EB-5 Program. Under this program, entrepreneurs (and their spouses and unmarried children under 21) are eligible to apply for a green card (permanent residence) if they:

Make the necessary investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States; and plan to create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers.

This program is known as EB-5 for the name of the employment-based fifth preference visa that participants receive.

Congress created the EB-5 Program in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors. In 1992, Congress created the Immigrant Investor Program, also known as the Regional Center Program. This sets aside EB-5 visas for participants who invest in commercial enterprises associated with regional centers approved by USCIS, based on proposals for promoting economic growth.

Required minimum investments are:

General: The minimum qualifying investment in the United States is $1 million.

Targeted Employment Area (High Unemployment or Rural Area): The minimum qualifying investment either within a high-unemployment area or rural area in the United States is $500,000.

A targeted employment area is an area that, at the time of investment, is a rural area or an area which has experienced unemployment of at least 150 percent of the national average rate.”

The Westside of Chicago definitely qualifies as a targeted employment area as defined by the USCIS. The Westside definitely possesses the geographic and transportation infrastructure to be attractive to foreign investors.

Seeking foreign investors is not a microwavable process. It has to be coordinated with efforts being undertaken by both the North Lawndale and Austin communities in developing long-term strategic plans.

It doesn’t hurt to make inquiries about the feasibility of the EB-5 investment program in coordination with our congressional representatives to determine if our community can benefit. 

What are the worst answers foreign investors can give us? We will not know unless we inquire. By the way, the phone number to the Chinese consulate is (312) 453-0210. The phone number to the India consulate is (312) 595-0405.

— Dwayne Truss, Austin 

CONTACT: michael@austinweeklynews.com