Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Linking Pittsburgh Immigration and Bakery Square

Today's tale begins with an editorial in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review criticizing the EB-5 visa program:

The Philadelphia Convention Center Authority agreed this month to consider a low-interest loan from the "Welcome Fund," overflowing with $73.5 million from 150 Chinese investors.

Public projects are notorious white elephants with voracious appetites for funding. They are no more commercial enterprises than the EB-5 scheme is legitimate immigration policy.

Thanks to a Richard Herman tip, I blogged about the EB-5 investment in the convention center back in July. Initially, the board of the project balked at the foreign capitalization. Given the Trib's admonishment, I gather the money is now flowing.

I gather that the Pittsburgh press is unaware of an EB-5 development in its own backyard. At least, I couldn't find any mention of it. Recently, the EB-5 program in Western Pennsylvania was extended to the entertainment industry. I was trying to find out if anything was in the pipeline and I came across a key actor in Philadelphia's forays into EB-5 investment: CanAm Enterprises.

CanAm Enterprises, based in Brooklyn, specializes in EB-5 investment projects. If you visit the company website you'll see that not only do they help Philadephia, but Western Pennsylvania (i.e. Pittsburgh) and Los Angeles as well. The LA connection concerns the film industry, which helps explain how the entertainment industry in Pittsburgh is now party to this foreign capital pipeline.

CanAm has a projects page with only one investment opportunity listed: Bakery Square in East Liberty (Pittsburgh). CanAm is acting as a broker, looking for 70 investors to the tune $35 million (and 700 local jobs) in exchange for permanent residency in the United States. In my opinion, this is exciting news.

I blog about this EB-5 story in hopes that other capital starved big ideas will explore this option. The visa is not without controversy, but the Tribune Review editorial is muchado about nothing. Foreign investment should be welcome in Pittsburgh. And I'll reiterate that more communities than Pittsburgh are eligible. The geographic scope is quite generous. Pay attention, Erie. You might be able to develop the Koehler Brewery site.

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