Biz Rules

EB-5 Visas That Attract Wealthy Foreigners are Up for Review

Concerns about fraud and a lack of oversight could cause changes for those who want to obtain EB-5 visas.

By Lori Johnston April 29, 2016 Published in the April 2016 issue of Sarasota Magazine

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Wealthy foreigners might find it more difficult to secure a green card through the federal EB-5 visa program later this year. Our region could feel the economic impact, suggests attorney P. Christopher Jaensch with the Jaensch Immigration Law Firm in Sarasota.

EB-5 sets aside visas for those who invest $500,000 to $1 million in commercial U.S. enterprises that create 10 full-time jobs through a federally approved regional center. These centers are development projects in certain designated areas that allow international visa seekers to combine their money. The investors do not have to be the owners.

Congress created the program in 1990 to help stimulate the nation’s economy. Some examples of investment are hotels, commercial developments, restaurants and even car washes. The number of visas awarded annually is capped at 10,000, and participation has escalated since 2008, mostly due to wealthy Chinese investors.

Concerns about fraud and a lack of oversight could increase the minimum investment to $1 million. Thirty-nine regional centers have been terminated as of February for failing to promote economic growth or meet eligibility requirements. For now, Congress has extended until Sept. 30 the option to invest. But the concern that the centers are taking advantage of investors and that the funds may be tainted or obtained through illegal activities is increasing the pressure to make changes, Jaensch says.

Jaensch handles about five or more EB-5 visa applications each year, and while that may not seem like many, it adds up, he says. EB-5 visa holders are typically high-net-worth individuals who want to live in Sarasota and Manatee for the lifestyle, safety and better education for their children.“I tell my clients we have no way of knowing what’s going to happen after Sept. 30,” he says.

“They furnish homes, use lawyers, go to restaurants, put kids in private schools,” he says. “When these people feel like their options are limited they don’t even visit. We’re losing out on the economic benefit independent self-funding investors have on the local economy.”  —Lori Johnston

By The Numbers

Sunny Side Up

First Watch ranks No. 1 for growth among daytime restaurants

Perhaps Americans have finally heeded the advice of diet coaches: Don’t skip breakfast. Coffee, pancakes and doughnuts are making restaurant revenues fatter, according to 2015 data from research firm NPD Group. And while lunch and dinner flat-lined in the 12-month period ending May 2015, breakfast visits were up 4 percent. The National Restaurant Association says 72 percent of adults wish restaurants would offer breakfast throughout the day. Sarasota-headquartered First Watch Restaurants, which also serves lunch, is satisfying the demand. Here’s a fact-filled look at the fastest-growing, privately owned, daytime restaurant company in the country. —Susan Burns

Ask the Boss

How Seasonal is your business?

Geoffrey Michel

Co-owner, The Met Fashion House Day Spa & Salon, St. Armands Circle

“While our day salon and spa are a bit more local, our fashion house is at times more tourism-based. Shopping is a tourism activity, similar to the beach. Approximately 50 percent of our volume comes from a guest who spends four to six months in Sarasota as a second home. About 35 percent comes from year-round residents. This sector is growing. The remaining 15 percent comes from the short-term tourist. We have worked hard to nurture our year-round clientele. We are well-established in local charities and marketing. We’re seeing growth off-season due to Sarasota’s growth, and more guests are becoming year-round, or at least staying longer than the typical four months.”

Darrell Turner

Owner, Turner Tree and Landscape, Bradenton

“Our business is calendar-driven and rain-driven. Normally, the first and last quarters are our two most productive times of the year. We’re 90 percent commercial landscaping. Owners and developers want to get [their projects] done by the end of the year for season. [This year] we had so many rain delays, we had a snowball of projects that got rolled into the end of the year. In the spring and summer, cash flow is terrible. Businesses should try to diversify so they don’t have all their eggs in this seasonal surge of work. We have a farming division and a landscape division. We have three tree farms around the county. For the second and third quarters we divert our staff to our farming operations. [However,] more people are coming down here for the summer. We’re looking to hire another eight to 10 people on top of 10 recent new hires.”

Denise Tschida

Co-founder/president, Motorworks Brewing, Bradenton

“Motorworks Brewing sees heavy impact in taproom/beer garden sales due to seasonality. When seasonal residents arrive back in Florida, our sales grow as much as 30 percent beyond other months. We remain busy all year long, yet March is busiest, as we are within walking distance to McKechnie Field where the Pittsburgh Pirates spring train.”

—Lori Johnston

Game Changer 

The Anti-Teflon Lawyer

A New College grad wins an epic environmental battle.

Interview by Susan Burns

Rob Bilott, a 50-year-old environmental attorney at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP in Cincinnati, has spent the last 18 years of his career fighting DuPont over its use of perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, better known as the chemical that makes Teflon. In January, he was profiled in The New York Times Magazine story, “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare.” Bilott’s long battle revealed that DuPont knew that PFOA posed health risks decades ago and hid the information from its workers, nearby residents and government agencies. His 2001 class action lawsuit against the chemical giant resulted in a 2004 settlement worth more than $300 million and also launched a seven-year landmark medical study that proves PFOA is linked to six diseases. His fight continues this year with personal injury and wrongful death suits. A New College of Florida alum, Bilott regularly vacations in Sarasota with his family. 

What has this case meant to you?

It’s obviously been a large focus of my career for the last 15 or more years. When you see something that needs to be done or information that you believe needs to get out in order to protect people’s health and your clients, and you’re having great obstacles, that can be taxing. At the same time, finding ways to achieve those goals is invigorating.

How did you get involved?

The original connection was through my mom’s family. That’s how they [West Virginia farmer Wilbur Tennant and his family] came to contact me. After we agreed to sit down and meet with them, the evidence was overwhelming. This was something clearly bad going on and we felt we could help.

What’s unique about this case?

It was an innovative approach to settling a toxic tort case. The traditional approach would have been to take these issues to trial and have it presented by competing experts to a jury. Under the settlement agreement [which included a $70 million cash award], both parties agreed to set up the scientific panel that would look at available data. The plaintiffs came up with the idea of using the $70 million [instead of distributing it] to give to an independent science panel for blood testing and data collection.

What diseases did the scientists conclude are linked to PFOA?

Kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, preeclampsia and high cholesterol. Part of the settlement agreement was that if links were found between the exposure and the disease there could be medical monitoring up to $235 million. And that people could pursue claims if those links were found.

You’re now handling those claims of personal injury and wrongful death.

Of the 70,000 people in six different public water supplies and several dozen private wells, which are considered in the scope of our [class-action suit], about 3,500 of the claims pending now are the ones that already have one of these particular diseases. We’ve got cases scheduled though the end of this year [the first one is a testicular cancer case that starts in May] and the court recently announced that in the beginning of 2017, there will be 40 trials a year.

How have you changed by doing this case?

Grayer hair and less of it.

What personality traits have helped you persevere?

Stubborn, focused, determined.

What impact did New College have on you?

They did a great job in teaching you how to think and how to think critically, how to analyze data, how to question what you’re seeing and look at it for yourself. I tried to avoid anything that involved numbers or math. It was rather ironic that I ended up dealing with chemicals.

If you could construct a perfect ending to all this litigation, what would it be?

We would like for all of the folks who have been injured to have their injuries addressed appropriately.

What lessons can we all learn from this case?

You can make change in significant ways that could affect way beyond your own community. The information that was revealed here deals with something that is in everyone’s blood across the world.

How did you feel about being called DuPont’s worst nightmare?

[Laughs…long pause] I did not mind.

Business Class

That's the Ticket

The Latest in luggage and travel accessories

By Jackie Rogers

Tune Out

AKG N60 noise cancelling headphones are a must for savvy
business travelers who want to hear their music and not the chatter of other passengers. These headphones deliver superior sound quality and 30 hours of battery life, and are constructed of lightweight aluminum and leather. They come with a 51-inch USB charging cable and airline adapter for plugging into onboard entertainment. Compact folding design and padded pouch make them perfect for travel.
$249, by Harman Audio,

All in One

Tumi’s Ultimate Travel Organizer will help keep you efficient and protected when traveling for business. This wallet features Tumi ID Lock, geared to protect the personal data encoded on your ID, credit card and passport from theft. Plus, keeping your tickets, passport and currency all in one place will prevent searching multiple pockets to find what you’re looking for. Chambers Collection, $195, from Tumi at UTC.

Tray Top Viewing

The Skadoosh iPad stand adjusts to any angle for perfect viewing, and its rubber feet keep it stable on your tray table in flight. Made of lightweight aluminum, it is super-portable and can be used in landscape or portrait orientation. This gadget makes watching movies in flight or FaceTiming with the kids more enjoyable. Includes travel bag. $69.95, from JaDu Industries,

Travel Light

Hartmann Innovaire luggage maximizes style and utility for today’s business traveler. Its shell is constructed of Curv, a strong, lightweight, scratch-resistant material that has this industrial-looking carry-on bag weighing in at a featherweight 4.3 pounds when empty. The gliding spinner wheels and telescoping handle make trekking through the airport easy. Spacious internal compartment and side zipper pockets. $500, from House of Samsonite at UTC.

Origami Stroller

If you’re taking the family along on this business trip, check out the Origami power-folding stroller. Guaranteed to simplify your travel experience, it folds with the push of a button, includes unique features like an LCD dashboard, daytime running lights, pathway lights for low-light conditions and sensors that detect when a child is in the seat. From power folding to cell phone charging, it’s everything a traveling parent could want. $849, from

Beauty on the Fly

Store all your liquids in style in this reusable, plastic travel pouch. With its clever, sleek design you won’t mind pulling out your toiletries as you pass through security. It fits easily into a purse or carry-on and is TSA approved. Beauty on the Fly clear travel bag, $4.95, from Sephora at UTC.


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You Do What?

Charlotte Osterman

Designs prints for top clothing designers.

Inspire by Nature

“My design aesthetic is light, bright and colorful, and that isn’t exactly Chicago. My parents live in Sarasota, and I found lots of inspiration here in the tropical plants, the color of the water, the midcentury architecture—just everything.”

Work Thread

“I majored in graphic design at California Institute of the Arts and moved to San Francisco in my mid-20s to work for a tech company, but it wasn’t my passion. I heard that Diane von Furstenberg, who’s known for her vivid prints, was doing a personal appearance at Neiman Marcus and I put together a book of my work. I brought my friend with me so I wouldn’t chicken out. [Diane] invited me to her hotel [to talk further] and I ended up going to New York to work for her. I learned everything about fabrics from her; she took me to China, taught me all about screen printing. I became her print director.”

Home Work

“I’m creating my own collection of home textiles woven and printed in the U.S. in an old mill in Rhode Island. I thought I would do this from the beginning, but I fell into fashion first. I plan to open up my own online shop and sell to the trade.”

An encounter with designer Diane von Furstenberg at a San Francisco Neiman Marcus catapulted Charlotte Osterman from her job as a graphic designer into a career designing fabric prints for von Furstenberg, Rachel Roy and other fashion companies. Osterman and her family moved to Sarasota from Chicago in August; she works out of a home studio, where she recently launched a textile collection for the home under her own label.

By Illene Denton

Biz Bites

Sandwich heaven at Bradenton’s South Philly Cheesesteak.

The Place

A standout in a pretty but otherwise unremarkable strip mall across the street from State College of Florida. The interior, with its mirrored wall and black-and-white checkered theme, is cozy without being crowded or noisy. There’s also a small patio with a few garden tables out front.

The People

SCF and IMG faculty and staff. It’s a near-universal dress code of jeans and polo shirts or short-sleeve button-ups.

Time Factor

Fast enough for a half-hour sit-down; faster still if you order from the counter to-go or even call ahead.

The Food

A good selection of fried apps, hoagies and a slew of salads, but really, it’s all about the cheesesteak. The meat for the signature sandwich (steak, chicken or pork) is thoroughly chopped up on the grill and sautéed together with finely chopped onions and cherry peppers. All of that is heaped with a mild, creamy cheese onto a pillow-soft roll made by Philadelphia’s own Amoroso’s Baking Company. It is melt-in-your-mouth delightful.

South Philly Cheesesteak > 5942 34th St. W., Bradenton, (941) 727-7339. 

By Hannah Wallace


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