I spent this week on a three-city speaking tour in Asia with a delegation from the County of San Bernardino (California) Economic Development Agency. Our purpose was to promote foreign investment into the county and outline the advantages of the EB-5 (Employment-Creation) immigrant investor visa category. Speaking in Seoul, Shanghai and Hong Kong to enthusiastic audiences, I was struck by several moments of irony.
The audiences were amazed that in America a man raised in Indonesia, the biracial son of a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother, could become President of the United States. Despite the economic turmoil the world faces, these audiences still see America as a land of stability in a sea of uncertainty. They appreciate not just the improbable ascendancy of our President-elect. They also marvel at how the prolonged and hotly contested primary and general election races could result in such a smooth and peaceful transitioning of power.
I was impressed with the dynamism and plentiful opportunities in Asia, and reminded that America is not necessarily the sole destination of choice.
I was also struck by the farsightedness of San Bernardino County. While many local governments compete to display machismo toughness in immigration enforcement, San Bernardino promotes the economic benefits that employment-based immigration affords.
If only our leaders in Congress were so enlightened. They just kick the football a few yards ahead by approving an extension of the EB-5 regional center program only to March 6, 2009 rather than grant a permanent extension. As unemployment soars well past six percent, our tentative federal leaders ignore the job-creation benefits that a permanent EB-5 regional-center extension would produce.
Why should foreign investors be bullish on America when Members of Congress are short sellers?
[Disclosure: With Steve Yale-Loehr and Nelson Mamey (a lawyer who prefers real estate finance and development over law practice), I own a recently approved regional center in Southern California.]