Jon Hanson is the chairman of the Hampshire Cos. and universally regarded among his colleagues as the most respected and most influential person in the real estate industry.
Hanson has been so bothered by the wave of news about the EB-5 visa program that he felt he needed to speak out.
“Because the Kushners are involved, and because of their relationship to President (Donald) Trump, the optics are bad,” he said. “I think that’s an unfair characterization of the program.”
The program, which has existed since 1990, allows foreign investors to obtain visas for investing large sums of money (close to $1 million) in U.S. projects.
Hanson said his company has used EB-5 money. And he feels such investments are key to growing the economy in New Jersey and elsewhere.
The only thing that matters, he said, is the jobs the program helps produce. Without this capital, he said, jobs potentially could be lost.
“Let me give you an example,” he said. “At the present time, there’s a feeling among the regulators that we are getting overheated on apartments. There will be reaction to that, and some lenders will reduce the percentage that they will loan.
“This type of capital can fill a niche. This is low-cost equity. It fills a need in many projects, especially if the market tightens. The end result is developers could be hurt or they could have projects that do not get built.”
Hanson fears any adjustments to the program will have consequences.
“Without things like EB-5 money, a lot of the projects don’t get done,” he said. “So, some will say, so be it, so a developer does not make a lot of money. Just remember: Every project that’s built, think of the jobs that come with it. That’s what you have to relate: Jobs is what it’s all about.”
Hanson has been a regular in the NJBIZ Real Estate Power list since it started in 2010, finishing in the Top Ten each year.
He is the only person to earn the No. 1 spot twice.