With nearly two more months to go until the Atlantic hurricane season officially ends on November 30, its intensity is already unprecedented. Prior to 2017, two Category-4 hurricanes had never hit the United States within a year. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, meanwhile, all hit within a month.
The economic toll on Florida and Texas is estimated to be as high as $290 billion and could slow our country’s GDP by a full percentage point. In Puerto Rico, losses could cost an additional $95 billion. While the damage caused can never be fully repaired, each and every community struck can be rebuilt. Historic devastation must be met with historic restoration.
As the Executive Director of Invest In the USA (IIUSA), I’m proud of the role the EB-5 Regional Center Program will have in that restoration process. Created by Congress in 1990, EB-5 has emerged as a critical job-creating program through which investors around the world fund projects across the country – all without costing the taxpayer a dime. Filling the funding gap with accessible and affordable capital, the revenue-neutral EB-5 program can claim responsibility for contributing $29.5 billion to our GDP and supporting over 177,000 jobs – all in FY14-15 alone.
In a story emblematic of how EB-5 can put low-cost capital to work in the aftermath of devastation, in Gulfport, Mississippi following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina we saw a real impact. Vacant for more than a decade, described as “old” and “derelict”, Gulfport’s Markham Hotel is set to be transformed into a sprawling 120-room Hyatt Place thanks to $30 million in EB-5 capital. The hotel, along with a new EB-5-funded aquarium and casino, won’t just accommodate guests – it will accelerate Gulfport’s downtown development. Consider the catalytic potential of greenlighting similar projects throughout the two states that now need it most.
In Houston, $274,000,000 in EB-5 capital is seeking to finance seventeen projects, which would account for an estimated 8,768 jobs, per the Department of Commerce’s methodology. Projects built by EB-5 across Texas include housing complexes for university students, assisted living homes for seniors, and medical facilities for patients. Only amplifying the impact on those students, seniors, and patients, these developments also help revitalize the neighborhoods in which they are built.
Meanwhile, here in Miami, $885,500,000 in EB-5 investment is seeking to finance twenty-one projects for an estimated 28,336 jobs, according to the Commerce Department’s methodology. Development capital has already been put to work in Florida to build a high-speed rail service which will connect the state, a state-of-the-art rehabilitation center specializing in post-stroke recovery, and a University of Miami property.
Speaking to the importance of EB-5’s role in the city of Miami – home of IIUSA’s upcoming industry forum – Mayor Tomás Regalado recently reaffirmed his belief in the program’s value and its ability to “change communities through job creation in projects which help us to address the unique needs of the communities we serve.”
As Congress prepares to consider both the future of the EB-5 Program and legislative solutions to help rebuild Florida and Texas throughout the months ahead, that “ability to change communities” makes the two inextricably intertwined. While reform is needed to improve the EB-5 Program’s integrity, so too is reauthorization to improve the countless communities affected by this year’s hurricane season.