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.
Since Cleveland is looking to fund a similar initiative, FirstPathway Citizenship Fund might be a great model to copy. If they haven't already, other EB-5 visa regions (e.g. Pittsburgh) could do the same. I'm curious as to why the EB-5 visa is so underutilized. Lack of publicity? Difficult to manage? Inexperience?