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What’s an EB-5 Regional Center? And More Importantly, How Can it Bring Jobs to Austin?

Mayor Lee Leffingwell and several others called for creation of an international investment agreement for Austin.
Photo courtesy
Mayor Lee Leffingwell and several others called for creation of an international investment agreement for Austin.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell proposed this morning that Austin apply for a program that would encourage international investment in local green jobs, by designating Austin as an EB-5 Regional Center.

But what on earth is an EB-5 Regional Center?

A designation of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), EB-5 Regional Centers allow cities to receive immigrant investor capitol – either $500,000 or $1 million. Investors must also present evidence the investment “will create at least 10 full-time positions.” In exchange, the investor and the investor’s family “is granted conditional permanent residence” – more commonly known as a green card – “for a two-year period.” 

There’s 14 EB-5 Regional Centers in Texas, according to USCIS. But Mayor Leffingwell says what will set this one apart is a focus on green tech and renewable energy.

"We'll use this federal program to focus on green jobs that could mean clean technology on solar projects or green energy, weatherization or battery research, water conservation or infrastructure and probably many more ideas,” Leffingwell said at a press conference today at the green-built Sol Austin subdivision.  Leffingwell was joined by State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, State Sen. Kirk Watson, and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett.

"It's part of Austin's DNA,” Watson said. Pointing to the success of EB-5 regional centers in Dallas and El Paso, Watson said that Austin's focus on green energy will make it especially attractive to global investment. “Now's the time.  And we're well positioned to pull this off. And you see elected officials coming together from all jurisdictions coming together to make it happen."

Leffingwell said the next step is for City Council to pass a resolution to file the application for EB-5 status.

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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