EB-5 project diversification: “I’ve seen more direct EB-5 projects”
Marisa Marconi is an EB-5 business plan writer and founder of Pinnacle Plan Writing. She has been working in the industry since 2007 and is specializing in EB-5 and the non-immigrant visas of L-1 and E-2.
“I am grateful to be part of the EB-5 community and industry,” she said. “The field is full of so many talented and smart professionals that are working to make a difference for immigrant investors and the economy.”
How and why did you get involved in the EB-5 industry?
I got involved in the EB-5 industry about nine or ten years ago. I was working as a project manager for a business plan writing firm and we started to get a lot of new clients for EB-5 projects. At the time, business plan writing for EB-5 wasn’t really a specialization, or at least only a few companies or people were really specializing in it. This was before the Matter of Ho decision. As adjudicators started to scrutinize business plans more, it became apparent to me that EB-5 required a specific type of plan with a real attention to detail and thorough understanding of the program. As I gained more experience and began working more closely with attorneys and other professionals in the industry, it was clear that the EB-5 program was having a real and positive impact on the economy and it was exciting and fulfilling to me to be developing reports that contributed to that. I came to specialize in visa-related business plans at my former job and ultimately was responsible for training all of our writers and project managers on plan creation for EB-5 plans as well as plans for other visa categories. I started my own firm in 2016 so I could focus and specialize in this niche.
What are some current trends you are seeing in the EB-5 market?
Real estate has always been a core industry for EB-5 and I am still seeing a lot of that. But I am also seeing some diversification. This past year, I’ve seen more direct EB-5 projects and more projects in manufacturing, warehousing, and other operations–driven projects. I am curious to see where the market goes post-pandemic. Infrastructure is becoming more and more of a hot topic lately, in terms of both political focus and the on-the-ground needs of communities, and I think that EB-5 can play a beneficial role in addressing our nation’s infrastructure issues. I am slowly seeing more infrastructure projects and I hope that continues. After EB-5 played such a big role in revitalization after the Great Recession, I think it can play a similar role in meeting the infrastructure needs of the country in this decade.
How do you think the pandemic has impacted the EB-5 industry?
It’s interesting because the pandemic hit relatively soon after the new TEA restrictions and increased minimum investment went into effect in late 2019. I think those were a one-two punch to the industry and I saw activity really plummet in the first half of 2020. Towards the end of last year and beginning of this year, it seems like the market is picking up steam again. As a business plan writer, my role is more on the front end of projects, so I don’t always have a front seat view to what happens with projects two or three years down the line. I think that the pandemic probably impacted these projects and investors the most. For example, real estate projects that were underway when the pandemic hit and now face a completely different economy as they enter the market, or projects that never got off the ground or had to be scrapped, or even recently completed projects that went bust. All of this creates various issues for project sponsors and EB-5 investors that are in the midst of their filings or conditional residency periods. I imagine that the industry will be awash with these issues for at least the near term.
What are your top business goals this year?
My business mission is always the same – measured, steady growth, with a focus on quality over quantity. With the potential changes to the program this year and the changing economy with COVID-19, I expect there to be a lot of interesting developments and shifts in trends. One of my goals is to do more research and publish content for educational purposes (rather than just plan development) to help promote the EB-5 program and provide more insight about its benefits to the general public.
What achievement in this industry has been most rewarding? Why?
Every time I hear back from a client that their application was approved or that a plan was successful is a rewarding achievement for me. I continually strive to develop the best plans possible and approvals (and no RFEs) from USCIS is verification that my plans are doing their job. Earning a place in the Top 5 Business Plan Writers rankings for the last five years has also been an immensely rewarding achievement. It’s always nice to be recognized by your colleagues for the work you do.
What do you think needs to be reformed with the EB-5 program at the time it is up for renewal in June?
I think the best path forward is to rally behind the EB-5 Integrity and Reform Bill. Given the political environment, I think that this is the foundational step required for the industry to get anywhere with any other legislative changes. Reform is a sticking point on Capitol Hill and it needs to be addressed once and for all. And long-term reauthorization is something the industry needs so we don’t have to go through the reauthorization roller coaster every year.
What is your favorite quote and why?
“…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn burn burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everyone goes ‘Awww!’” - Jack Kerouac
I was obsessed with the Beats when I was younger. I loved the spontaneous prose. Now that I’m old and serious and responsible, it’s a nice reminder to keep an eye on the madness of life too.
What about you would surprise others?
During the pandemic I got into wood carving and woodworking. I can carve a really nice spoon now and make hand cut picture frames. My caricatures need work, though: my “duck” decoy looks like…a beak on wood. But I am getting better! That and hiking/backpacking have been my go-to over the last year, though that is not very unusual in the Pacific Northwest. My son is excited to go on his first overnight backpacking adventure with me this summer and I am excited to tackle my first 50+ mile trek.
Why did you decide to join our verified EB-5 community and what has it done for your business?
I’ve attended many of EB5 Investors Magazine’s conferences and have been involved in the EB-5 industry for a long time. EB5 Investors is well-known and well-respected in the industry so it just made sense to join the verified community. It’s been great as a networking resource, but also as an information resource for my clients.