The EB-5 program's mission as a catalyst for job creation is the driving force behind its value to the American people: each EB-5 investor must create 10 jobs. Those in the EB-5 industry deal with the numbers of EB-5 job creation on a daily basis. All too often, the people, stories, and faces behind those numbers are overlooked. We had the privilege of interviewing 10 individuals employed by 10 different EB-5 projects set up by 10 different regional centers. The number 10, of course, reflects the number of jobs that each EB-5 investor must create. The investors who immigrate through EB-5 are participating in more than an investment program, more than an immigration program - they are crafting a legacy. Read the following stories with the understanding that each EB-5 investor has an impact on at least as many lives and stories as the following 10 people. Each EB-5 investor participates in the most quintessential of all American legacies: the pursuit of the American Dream.
Nikeia Scott - Shift Manager, Golden Chick Restaurant
This job was facilitated by a direct EB-5 investment
After her family was displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Nikeia Scott moved around the South, working a series of “odd-jobs,” as she calls them. A few years after the hurricane, her two sisters moved to the Lancaster, Tex. area. She did not see them again until 2009, when she moved there herself.
Her home was originally New Orleans, but she is now firmly planted in Lancaster. “Family is what brought me to Texas,” Scott said. “I wanted to be closer to them. I wanted them to know my children, and I wanted to know their children.”
And it is her current job at Lancaster’s newly opened Golden Chick restaurant that gives her the family-friendly schedule and weekends off to do just that. After working her “odd-jobs,” which included managing a warehouse and selling life insurance, she sought out this specific job even before the restaurant opened for business.
“I came to Golden Chick right when it opened,” Scott said. “I did need work at the time, but I chose to come here because I wanted to be part of something from the beginning.”
Starting from the beginning is exactly what Scott did. She was hired as a cashier, but three months later she was promoted to shift leader. She noted that she feels she is on the path to further her career in this new position.
“With being promoted to shift manager, I see that there is room for growth here, and I know that I will be rewarded according to my work,” Scott said.
That room for growth was important to her, and it has been her whole life. Scott said that she always strives to be “above average” in everything she does, and she knows where that drive to succeed can take her.
“I was a little surprised when I was promoted after just three months,” she said. “But at the same time, I wasn’t.”
Not wanting to take all the credit herself, Scott said her success is a reflection of her customers’ satisfaction.
“The residents are very excited [about having the restaurant in Lancaster], and I’m so glad to be a part of it from the beginning” she said. Likewise, Scott likes being a part of her customers’ day from the start, because “I can have an impact on their day, just from the way that I treat them.”
That sense of being so close with her community goes a long way with the people Scott interacts with.
“When people come back after they get great service here, that is just icing on the cake,” Scott said. “I come here every day and I love it.”
Isaiah Perez - Member Services and Development Coordinator for the Water Council, Global Water Center
This job was facilitated by FirstPathway Partners Regional Centers
Deep inside Milwaukee’s historic Walker’s Point neighborhood, near the confluence of the Milwaukee, Menomonee, and Kinnickinnic rivers, sits the Global Water Center. The seven-story building is the physical manifestation of the Water Council, a regional non-profit that drives economic growth in the city’s budding “blue tech” industry.
Isaiah Perez has seen the effects of that growth first-hand. Perez is a Milwaukee native that grew up in Walker’s Point and attended the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.
Perez is the member services and development coordinator for the Water Council. He joined the Water Council as an intern before the center officially opened in 2013, and was hired full-time shortly after.
“Milwaukee has an extensive history with water-related industries,” Perez told EB5 Investors Magazine. “The main one that jumps out to most people is brewing, because Milwaukee was home to several of the country’s largest breweries over the last century.”
“We also have a long history with the meat packing and tanning industries,” he added. “Because of that there are more than 160 water-related companies and support business that helped these industries shaped Milwaukee’s economy in the past.”
As a Milwaukee native, Perez knew that he wanted to get involved with the Global Water Center early on to help facilitate growth within the industry. After graduating from UWM, he interned at a marketing company. As that internship was coming to a close, he had expressed interest about the Water Council to one of his supervisors. The next thing he knew, he was introduced to several people at the Water Council.
Perez said his position allows him to connect with his community in special and organic ways. His job also affords benefits that he did not expect so early in his career - like paying off student loans and purchasing a home.
Even though the blue technology industry is growing because of the Milwaukee’s deep water-related roots, there are still many people in the city that are unaware of what is going on.
“Educating people about what is going on in the water industry here in Milwaukee is the most fulfilling thing,” Perez said.
“A lot of people, even here in the city, don’t really understand the momentum that is going on behind the scenes here in Milwaukee. Just talking with people about the developments here is fulfilling, because I’m kind of like a public ambassador for what is going on in the community.”
Recent redevelopment of the Walker’s Point area has driven an economic resurgence for southeastern Milwaukee, Perez said, though the outlook for the neighborhood was not always this positive.
“There were a lot of empty warehouses, but now they are finding new life as commercial or residential spaces. It has been tremendous to see the growth since we’ve been in the building,” Perez said. “This area has been undergoing a transformation recently, even before the Global Water Center opened, so we don’t like to take all the credit for the development that has been going on around us now, but we have certainly added to that momentum.”
For Perez, being a part of that growth in his hometown has been a life-changing experience.
“To see over the last 20 years how the area has gone from what it used to be to what it is today is pretty tremendous,” Perez said. “Walker’s Point is my home and I’ve been here for so long, and to see it taking off again is very exciting.”
Cathleen O'Higgins - Health, Safety, and Environmental Coordinator, Dakota Spirit AgEnergy
This job was facilitated by CMB Regional Centers
For some people, their passion leads them to a specific job. For others, like Cathleen O’Higgins, however, her job led her to discover a passion.
O’Higgins is the health, safety, and environmental coordinator at Dakota Spirit AgEnergy, a company in the ethanol industry. In this position, she works to ensure the safety of the employees and the workers. On the environmental side, she oversees compliance with OSHA and the EPA.
“I have a degree in exercise science, and I kind of fell into health and safety when I moved to Jamestown,” said O’Higgins, who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in personal hygiene.
Before starting her current job, O’Higgins was not familiar with ethanol. She did a lot of interviewing and learning, and has found the process so interesting that she is considering pursuing further education on environmental topics.
Although her master’s program does not directly relate to her work, O’Higgins is considering taking advantage of diverse course offerings that would prepare her for future environmental work. “As I get through the program, I am looking at pursuing a dual program in environmental work, especially as the ethanol technology has continued to advance. As we are seeing environmental issues all over the world, I anticipate seeing more interest.”
Originally from Toronto, O’Higgins moved to Jamestown, North Dakota, for family, and found a passion in a job that allows her to make an impact on her community.
The biggest change, O’Higgins said, “was moving to a rural community. There are so many jobs in North Dakota right now. A lot of people have moved to Jamestown because they are looking for that smaller community lifestyle.”
O’Higgins enjoys the rural lifestyle, including hunting waterfowl and deer. Her love of the outdoors makes her job even more rewarding.
“I feel like I’m doing my part to preserve the environment, especially as an avid fisher and hunter,” said O’Higgins.
She also finds satisfaction in knowing that her company is another customer and source of income for local corn growers.
Dakota AgEnergy uses a substantial amount of corn, and the company is able to benefit the economy.
The community in Jamestown is small, and since people know where she works, O’Higgins gets lots of questions.
“It gives me an opportunity to lobby ethanol, to educate the community and people who know me,” O’Higgins said.
“Coming from a metropolis area, you have some issues knowing that you can see the smog line - knowing that ethanol is out there and reduces the pollution.”
O’Higgins even posts on Instagram about ethanol now - “It’s something I go out of my way to share on my personal media,” she said.
Shannon Hundley - Executive Director, Renaissance Village Rancho Belago
Moreno Valley, Calif.
This job was facilitated by USA Continental Regional Center
Between budgeting, administration and compliance, there is not much the executive director of an assisted living facility does not do.
But Shannon Hundley always finds time to connect with the residents at Renaissance Village Rancho Belago in Moreno Valley, California, where he serves as executive director.
“I’ve always worked with the elderly in some form or fashion, from skilled work to in-home care, but assisted living has always been my passion and where I want to be,” Hundley told EB5 Investors Magazine.
In fact, Hundley has made his entire career about serving the elderly, and has been at it since graduating high school.
“When I graduated high school, the closest thing that I could get to by foot or by bike was a skilled nursing facility,” Hundley said. “I started working there in housekeeping, and I moved up through the dietary program and as a rehab aid.” Hundley also said that passion carried him through college at Wichita State in Kansas, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration and a minor in nursing in 2000.
That commitment to serving his residents shines through when he spoke about meal time at Renaissance Village, where he is often making the rounds, greeting and catching up with residents. He stressed the importance of fostering a more social connection with the people living there.
“One of the biggest things with the elderly population is meal time,” Hundley said. “I’m in there for all three meals to see them. The morning is an important time as well. That way I can meet with them and resolve any issues they may have had overnight.”
Meal time helps the residents feel like they are at “home,” Hundley said. That feeling of home also extends to the staff.
His job is not only professionally satisfying, but also personally rewarding.
“I love coming to work because when I come in every day, it feels like I’m seeing my extended family,” Hundley added. “The dining room is especially important. I’ll sit down with them and move to different tables and ask them how they are doing. It is a very important social time for all of us.”
Hundley also added that he feels a sense of pride in what he does, knowing that he makes a difference in people’s lives every day.
“This job has enhanced my quality of life,” he said. “But I know that it is enhancing our residents’ quality of life as well.”
Angela Murdock - Assistant Manager, Burger King
This job was facilitated by Retail Equity Partners Holdings Regional Center
When the right attitude meets the right opportunity and training, success often follows quickly. For some, very quickly.
Just ask Chicago resident Angela Murdock. For several years, she bounced between quick service restaurants in various
positions, but little formal on-the-job training hindered her advancement.
That is, until she began her current job at a Burger King franchise in downtown Chicago, a location financed with EB-5 capital.
Murdock started as a cashier when the location opened, and within a few weeks she moved up to a shift manager position.
Just a few months later, she was promoted to assistant manager. Her responsibilities now include scheduling, hiring, food safety and other restaurant needs.
”I love this job. And when I say I love it – I love it,” Murdock said.
After trying other career paths, Murdock knew where she could be the most successful.
“I tried working at a hospital, it didn’t work out,” she said. “Then I worked at a clinic for a little while, and that didn’t work out. I came back to the food service industry…and I love it.”
Murdock is a prime example of someone with the skills to succeed in their profession, who was simply waiting on the right job and environment to thrive.
“Since I’ve been working here I’ve learned so much,” she said. “When I was working at my past restaurants, they really didn’t teach me anything. I get to do everything here. I thought it would be difficult at first, but I like what I do so it really wasn’t. I’m still learning day by day, and I love that.”
Murdock also explained that taking this job has allowed her to cultivate her passion for customer service and for serving her fellow employees. She has even developed a few regular customers along the way.
“We have this older woman who comes in every morning for a cup of coffee and orders a salad to-go for lunch later. When she comes in I already have her order ready,” she said.
Customers like this regular can get a coffee anywhere in downtown Chicago, but she comes to Murdock’s Burger King instead. There is a certain sense of pride in that, Murdock said.
Outside of work, Murdock maintains a busy schedule with her children. She stressed that this job has greatly improved her quality of life, giving her flexibility and control of her schedule to be with her family. On her off days or on weekends, if she is not working, Murdock is with her kids.
“I try to do everything I can with them on my off days,” she said. “They’re the reason I work so much – it is all for them.”
“It really has given me an opportunity to advance my career,” she added. Murdock plans to go back to school soon.
Like so many Americans, Murdock was not familiar with the EB-5 program and was not aware that EB-5 funds helped create her job.
David Wanger - Executive Director, Green Valley Hospital
Green Valley, Ariz.
This job was facilitated by Green Card Fund Regional Center
David Wanger has been running hospitals for 34 years. He started off as a single-day volunteer when he was a teenager, shadowing a family friend who was the director of a hospital.
That day turned into an entire summer, and that summer blossomed into a career.
Growing up, Wanger’s father pushed him into the field, albeit in a roundabout fashion.
“Back then, we didn’t question our parents,” Wanger laughed. “My father put me in touch with a friend of the family, who was a hospital administrator, and I spent an afternoon with him. I wound up spending the whole summer with him as a volunteer.”
Wanger’s career has taken him to hospitals across the country in several different capacities. Currently he is the executive director of Green Valley Hospital in Green Valley, Arizona, an EB-5 project developed by the locally-based Green Card Fund.
“I came to Green Valley about 16 months ago and essentially what I heard from everybody was that they were in constant need of a hospital,” Wanger said.
Green Valley residents were travelling 45 minutes to an hour to Tucson to get the care they needed, spending an average of $350 million in gross charges every year, Wanger said. The Green Valley demographic, which has an average age of 71, needed a much closer option than Tucson.
Wanger’s passion for running hospitals starts with giving people the care that they deserve, he said. That itself must begin with his way of doing things.
“I was on the ground by myself, really, for about 16 months,” he said about getting the hospital up and running. “We didn’t hire anyone until about five or six months ago.”
Getting the hospital running by himself allowed Wanger to create a unique culture. Rather than grappling with an existing way of doing things, he got to start from scratch.
“I’m not much for just going in and operating on someone else’s culture,” Wanger said. “What I loved about this place was having a blank canvas. As long as you stay within the letter of the law, you can paint almost any picture you want. My guess is we’re about to paint a Rembrandt here—especially if you hire the right people, and I believe we have.”
The most important thing for him, he said, was seeing the community’s reaction to finally having a place to get the care they need.
“I want to do the right thing, not just the profitable thing, for the community,” Wanger added. “We’ll be setting up a community advisory board soon. We also have 240 or so volunteers signed up. We have more volunteers than employees right now.”
That is a testament to the Green Valley community, which surprises him every day with their enthusiasm, Wanger said.
Makayla Gesualdo - Curriculum Director, Learning Foundation & Performing Arts Charter School
This job was facilitated by Education Fund of America Regional Center
For Makayla Gesualdo, teaching in the classroom is where she always wanted to be. Last year she taught third grade.
This year she became the instructional coach, the assistant to the principal, and also serves as the curriculum director at Learning Foundation and Performing Arts Charter School.
Gesualdo has been teaching for 10 years, and has been at Learning Foundation and Performing Arts for almost three years.
This is her first year at the charter school’s Warner campus, which has a unique dual focus on academics and the performing arts.
Gesualdo herself is no stranger to the performing arts.
When she was younger, from kindergarten to high school, she was in competitive dance classes, so she can relate to a lot of the students at the school.
Working in a school that is not just focused on academics has been personally rewarding, she said.
“I think the greatest thing is that we have kids at the school who love to sing, who love to perform, and to act. To incorporate that into our classroom, and into all of our academics, is great for the kids,” says Gesualdo.
“The two really go hand-in-hand,” she added.
Before her current position, Gesualdo taught at traditional public schools in the Midwest, then came out to Arizona to teach at another charter school.
Gesualdo was contacted by a mother who was considering moving her daughter to Learning Foundations because she excelled in dance and the mother thought it was important for her to broaden her horizons. They suggested that Gesualdo check out the school and see if she would be interested in moving over.
“What sold it to me was that I could teach from the heart,” Gesualdo said. “And to know that there was going to be a balance between letting kids try something new that maybe they’ve never been given the opportunity to try, and to balance that with academics.”
“That put the force in me to apply to this school and the position here.”
She feels that being able to combine those passions for the performing arts and teaching has helped her grow as a teacher.
Gesualdo also appreciates the opportunity that the school offers to its students. She was a shy, reserved student, and now knows that if she had been given this opportunity in her school it would have helped her overcome many obstacles.
The job has been rewarding not only professionally, but also personally, she said.
“The greatest thing about teaching itself is that you inspire kids – you inspire them to succeed and give them confidence,”
Gesualdo said. “On a personal level, it’s so rewarding because you still get to interact with those families, and you still get invited to birthday parties with your students – there’s not one word that can communicate how much appreciation I get outside of school for being in the classroom.”
Robert Doyle - Operations Manager, NuRide/La Puma Driver Service
New York, N.Y.
This job was facilitated by direct investment through the New York City Green Transportation Project, developed by NuRide Transportation
Robert Doyle is a man who loves his job. He knows it, and he wants everyone else to know it, too. He has also seen most of the world, all without leaving New York City.
Doyle has been in the car and driver service industry, in one capacity or another, for 36 years.
“It started off in 1979 as a part-time job driving while I was working as a clerk in an advertising firm, oddly enough,”
Doyle said. “From there, I was invited into the driving company’s office to do some phone work because I majored in communications in college, so that sort of opened the door for me.”
“I only drove for six months, and I honestly could not believe that I would have such an opportunity that would afford me greater pleasures than driving,” he said. “I looked at driving as an opportunity to meet people and drive around and see new places, but being inside and working with drivers and customers and various tourists has opened up a world for me that I don’t think I would have experienced in a car.”
Doyle now works for La Puma Car and Limousine Service as their operations manager. La Puma is a subsidiary of NuRide, which recently used EB-5 capital to expand its business, and they brought Doyle in specifically for his current position.
“I’ve been able to meet a lot of people. I was born and raised in the South, and I moved to Brooklyn, New York, where I spent most of my years,” Doyle said. “This position allows me to visit and live through other people’s travels, whether they’re coming from Europe or China. In setting up services for them, we engage in conversation and I learn so many things about where they are coming from and what type of culture they are in.”
That guest interaction leaves him with a feeling of satisfaction that, at the end of the day, even he cannot describe.
“I come home and talk to my wife and my children and my grandchildren, and I try to explain to them why I come home with this feeling that money can’t buy,” Doyle said.
“Every day I get to serve people from China, Dubai, Brazil or Japan,” he added. “These are people that I would not have direct contact with if I were with another company. Here, I get the chance to meet them face-to-face and either through images or literature, or even a translator, we’ve been able to establish some kind of rapport.”
That rapport is important from a business and financial perspective, Doyle noted, but it also enhances his personal life in ways that can’t be measured with profit margins. He noted that the sense of satisfaction he gets from helping someone get to where they are going is what drives him the most.
“Service, it can’t be beat. To say that I helped someone, to say that someone remembers me because I helped them, is a wonderful feeling. That is what drives me, that is what I live for now.”
“I could do this every day for the rest of my life,” he said.
Yolanda Ellis - Dietary Service Manager, Lakewest Assisted Living
This job was facilitated by Civitas Capital Group Regional Center
When she retired from the U.S. Navy after 20 years of service, Yolanda Ellis knew that she wanted to continue to serve. Although now, rather than serving her country, she is serving the residents of Lakewest Assisted Living in Dallas, Texas.
“When I joined the Navy I wasn’t sure what career path or job I wanted to do,” Ellis told EB5 Investors Magazine. “My commander in boot camp suggested that I go into the culinary field because it was open at the time.”
Even though it was an abrupt career turn, “it was the right decision,” Ellis said.
Ellis quickly discovered that she indeed had a passion for the culinary industry. In the Navy she learned basic food principles and techniques, how to read recipes, and how to manage a kitchen—albeit a very cramped one on an aircraft carrier.
“I definitely started from the bottom learning how to cook and read recipes,” she added.
After a two decade career in the Navy, Ellis retired and settled in Virginia while her husband was still active-duty. There, she worked as the congregate nutrition site manager for Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia, a local non-profit.
“When my husband and I relocated to Texas, I already knew that I had a passion for food, but when I took the position [at SSSA], I was able to work with the senior population, and I realized that that was another passion of mine as well,” Ellis said.
Ellis said she wanted to combine her passion for food and her passion for customer service and serving the elderly.
“I realized that those two things together were something that I wanted to do, so when I moved to Texas, I started looking for jobs in nursing homes that could combine both of my passions,” Ellis said.
Ellis found Lakewest Assisted Living in Dallas in March 2015.
Lakewest is operated by Stonegate Senior Living LLC, which utilized EB-5 financing to finance Lakewest’s construction.
She stressed that her interaction with Lakewest’s residents is something that drives her to do her best every day. Ellis is more than just a meal planner or dietary specialist. She tries every day to connect with the residents and make sure all their dietary needs are met.
“In the military, you are deployed for months at a time,” Ellis said. “The sailors are away from all their loved ones, and they look forward to a good meal every day. Being able to provide that experience for them and seeing the joy on their faces was the best part for me.”
Ellis also said that she gets that same satisfaction by providing nutritious meals for and interacting with the residents of Lakewest, and is grateful that she has found a career after the Navy that allows her to do just that.
Just like when she joined the Navy more than 20 years ago, Ellis’ move to the senior assisted living industry is not without its set of challenges. The dietary restriction learning curve has been a steep one, but she is up for it.
The work-life balance she has now is a luxury that Ellis fully enjoys, which enables her to be home every night for family dinner with her son. Ellis is also headed back to school - she already has her associate degree, but now she is pursuing another associate degree in dietetics. The job is going to provide her with the extra credits that she needs to complete the degree.
“This job has given me the opportunity to give back and combine my two passions,” Ellis said.
Lian Khan Nang - Food and Beverage Lead, Pearl District Marriott Hotel
This job was facilitated by EB5 Global Regional Center
Relocating as a refugee can be a traumatizing and dramatic experience. When moving to the United States, refugees often face cultural and linguistic barriers that can hinder their acclimation to the American lifestyle. Like anyone else, refugees must find employment once they settle here.
Resettled refugees are authorized to work in the United States by the Department of Homeland Security, and many look forward to the employment opportunities offered by their new host country. Despite hardships, Lian Khan Nang has dedicated himself to advancing his career and building a life in the United States.
That is exactly what Nang did when he resettled in Portland, Oregon as a Burmese refugee in 2012.
“Life in Burma is hard, especially where I was,” Nang said.
“We were forced by the government to leave with only one or two days’ notice and we had to carry all of our things with us.”
“My parents were farmers in rural Burma,” he said. “We cultivated rice paddies. We liked what we were doing.”
When he resettled in Portland, Nang went to school at Mt. Hood Community College to earn an accountant assistant certificate. But after months of looking for work, he couldn’t find anything. That is when he found his current job at the Pearl District Marriott Hotel in Portland.
Lian initially applied to the front desk when the hotel opened in 2014, but he was offered a job in the food and beverage division as a breakfast attendant instead.
“When I first started working food and beverage, I didn’t know anything about it,” Nang said. After a few weeks of training and another couple of months on the job, he grew to love it.
“My co-workers and supervisors are great and they are very friendly,” he said. “Now I feel like this can be my career job.”
Nang was recently promoted to food and beverage lead. He carries much more responsibility now, and he could not be happier about his career prospects.
“A few months ago someone contacted me and asked if I was still looking for accounting work,” Nang said. “I told them, ‘it’s OK, I really like this job, I am happy here.’”
Since he started working at the Pearl District Marriott, Nang has regained a sense of normalcy in his life, and he has plans to further his education to take his career to the next level.
“Right now I am not taking any credit classes, but I am taking ESL classes. I want to improve my writing. I am planning to take more classes, maybe in management or food and beverage.”
Nang noted the differences between his life since settling in the Pacific Northwest with his relatives and the totalitarian regime oppressing his home country. Those differences may seem complicated by the years of internal conflict in Myanmar, but to him, the simple opportunity to work in the United States has drastically changed his life.
“I have a much better life here in Portland than in Myanmar,” Nang said. “I like the weather, the people are friendly…it is a much better place for me to be.”