Editor’s note: This commentary is by Patricia Moulton, the secretary of the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
The Agency of Commerce is compelled to correct several inaccurate allegations that VTDigger published in the Oct. 5 story “VTDigger Exclusive: EB-5 Investors Question State’s Watchdog Role.”
The article incorrectly alleges that the state should have demanded quarterly reports from Jay Peak Resorts, but did not, thus not adequately monitoring the project.
Some of the EB-5 investors in the private limited partnership that financed the construction of the Tram Haus Lodge objected to an action taken by Bill Stenger, the General Partner, that was within the authority of the agreement entered into and signed by each limited partner. Mr. Stenger’s action was not in conflict with any federal law or regulations enacted for the EB5 program. Of note, the Jay Peak Tram Haus Lodge is one of the few EB-5 projects in the country to begin to pay back its investors, and each investor has obtained permanent United States residency.
The story implies that it is inappropriate for the state to coordinate PR and marketing efforts related to the EB-5 projects. On the contrary, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) — a component of the Department of Homeland Security, requires that EB-5 Regional Centers market and promote projects as part of the program’s economic development goal. It is entirely appropriate and expected for the state to coordinate PR and marketing efforts related to the EB-5 program here and abroad with the private businesses that participate in it and to be concerned about the reputation of the center and its projects.
The Agency of Commerce and Community Development has worked hard to both maintain and go beyond IIUSA recommendations and establish Vermont’s own best practices for an EB-5 Regional Center.
The article states that Gov. Peter Shumlin “touted” the state’s audits of EB-5 programs in a video. Jay Peak was the first EB-5 project in the state and the guiding legal document or memorandum of understanding was signed in 2006. Since Brent Raymond became director of the Vermont Regional Center two years ago, new MOUs signed with subsequent EB-5 projects are required to have financial audits. Gov. Shumlin’s comment, made off the cuff at a media event, was accurate in referring to MOUs written today, but not for the old Jay Peak MOU. Nonetheless, the state did demand that Jay Peak remove the video to avoid any confusion.
Last and most concerning, the story alleges that Brent Raymond and the state have not monitored projects for compliance with the regulations laid out for them. On the contrary, as the more than 260 pages of emails and documents provided to VTDigger clearly showed that the state has been in constant contact with the Jay Peak project, demanding better communication between Jay Peak and its investors, and with the state. Brent requested, and received, regular reports, responded to investor inquiries, and demanded Jay Peak provided answers.
The Agency of Commerce and Community Development has worked hard to both maintain and go beyond IIUSA recommendations and establish Vermont’s own best practices for an EB-5 Regional Center. No one connected with the Vermont Regional Center program has given Jay Peak preferential treatment. We work closely with the leaders of all projects and treat them equally with professional respect as well as diligent oversight.
Readers should know that the state willingly provided VTDigger with approximately 260 pages of correspondence, per the Public Records Act. The story references just three pages of that correspondence. The rest clearly documents the fact that the state made inquiries, reviewed document offerings and made investors aware of Jay Peak’s fiduciary responsibility.
In sum, the state is working hard to bring more than $350 million to the region and ensure the project is well managed and monitored.