Created in 1992, the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program, commonly known as the EB-5 investor visa, allows foreign nationals to immigrate to the United States by making a significant financial investment in a new commercial enterprise or what is known as a “regional center.” The objective of the EB-5 program is to promote investment and create American jobs by setting aside a certain number of green cards for these investors, who must each invest at least $500,000 through a regional center in a project that will generate at least ten indirect jobs. There are some 250 Regional Centers across the United States which are involved in the promotion of economic growth, job creation, improved regional productivity and increased domestic capital investment.
What makes Vermont’s regional center so attractive to investors is the fact that it is the only state-run, statewide regional center in the nation, which investors believe adds weight and credibility to their investments, as well as facilitating ease of investment. As a division of the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, the regional center has already worked with more than 100 investors in developing job creation projects. With the exception of the Burlington-South Burlington Metropolitan Statistical Area, investment projects can be set up throughout Vermont, including Stowe.
Self-professed “ski capital of the East,” picturesque Stowe, in Lamoille County, is the quintessential New England town. It combines quaint 250-year-old character with everything that the mountain sports enthusiast could want, nestled, as it is, against a backdrop of Mt. Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak. Stowe’s unique character and high-end facilities, make it popular with tourists year-round, from hikers in summer to leaf peepers through the Fall and skiers in the winter. With a population of just 4,314 people living in an area of 72 square miles, Stowe is Vermont’s second-largest town. Relying heavily on tourism, opportunities for investment in the area are likely to be tourism industry-based. In addition to providing services for visitors, with 53 per cent of properties in Stowe being rental/vacation properties, an investment in a real estate venture such as hotel accommodation and ski-lodge rentals could be lucrative, providing that the venture would create ten indirect jobs. Since there is a constant demand for long- and short-term rental properties in Stowe, it could reap the benefits of attracting foreign investors as Jay Peak has done.
Situated just 50 miles north of Stowe, and with a similar reliance on tourism, Jay Peak has reaped a share of more than $500 million in EB-5 investment as part of the Northeast Kingdom Economic Development Initiative, which will see seven projects developed across four towns, creating some 1,750 jobs.
Following enterprising Jay Peak’s lead, Stowe Regional Center could work with developers and realtors to create projects that see an increase in real estate units and improvements in infrastructure. These could be similar to those in real estate developments in Jay Peak which have included:
- Improved ski lifts and facilities
- An increase in the number of hotels
- An increase in rental properties
- A new medical center
- A new conference center
- A new business park
Clearly, Stowe is ripe for the type of investment that other towns in Vermont have reaped from the EB-5 program, and with natural beauty that never ceases to attract a steady stream of visitors, it simply needs to garner the interest of eager investors seeking to get a green card.