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Foreign investment center being created at UND
GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) – The University of North Dakota’s Center for Innovation Foundation has received a federal designation that officials say could draw millions of private investment dollars to North Dakota and northwest Minnesota and create hundreds of jobs.
Federal immigration officials have approved the UND foundation to operate as what is known under the Immigration Act of 1990 as an “EB-5 Regional Center,” or a foreign investment center, Sens. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., said Thursday. Under the program, international investors whose money leads to business growth and new jobs in rural areas and areas of high unemployment get conditional green cards that could lead to permanent residency.
The federal program has attracted more than a billion dollars in foreign investment to the U.S. and created tens of thousands of new jobs in the past two decades, the senators said in a statement. The UND foundation estimates that up to $60 million could be invested in the region over the next three or four years, creating more than 600 jobs.
“We’ve been working with equity capital for a very long time, and this is another tool in the tool chest for entrepreneurs and angel investors to be working together on high-growth ventures,” foundation Chief Executive Officer Bruce Gjovig told the Grand Forks Herald.
The foundation began seeking the designation two years ago, Gjovig said. Officials submitted more than 300 pages of documentation, and Conrad and Hoeven sent a letter to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services earlier this year saying the program “is ideally suited and designed for rural regions like ours.”
The foundation plans to look for local companies that are interested in attracting foreign investment, and then work with the North Dakota Trade Office to target investors in China, South Korea, India, Brazil, Canada, Norway and other countries.
“North Dakota’s been exporting for a very long time,” Gjovig said. “This is a chance now to attract international funds.”
There are 50 EB-5 designated centers across the country; 10,000 visas are set aside for the program each year.