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Visa program could help spur Idaho jobs

BOISE – A new Boise company hopes to help Idaho businesses market their ideas by raising money through a federal immigration law that allows foreign investors with $500,000 to invest in rural or high-unemployment areas to obtain visas.

Invest Idaho Innovations LLC, called I-Cubed, will help create new companies and jobs in Idaho by making it possible for public research institutions and private companies to market their innovations, said chief executive Miles Mahoney.

“I want to create a system that stops intellectual property in Idaho from being shelved, and starts raising capital and investing to create new companies and new jobs in the state,” Mahoney said. “We will be a partner that helps public research institutions and private companies monetize their innovations.”

The money will be generated through the federal EB-5 immigrant visa program that offers foreigners permanent U.S. residency, or a green card, in exchange for helping create U.S. jobs.

The law authorizes 10,000 visas annually to foreign investors who will commit at least $500,000 to rural areas or $1 million in urban areas for at least two years. The businesses that are created must employ at least 10 people.

For that process to begin, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security must designate a “regional center” in Idaho under the EB-5 program, which would market investment opportunities to foreign investors.

Mahoney said that with the help of the Idaho Department of Commerce, he hopes to get up to $70 million from foreign investors that would go to Idaho through the EB-5 program.

Brian Dickens, administrator of Idaho Department of Commerce’s Commercial Innovation Division, said he expects the center will be approved within 14 months.

I-Cubed plans to operate what it calls the Invest Idaho Innovation Fund and the Idaho Tech-Transfer and Commercialization Clearinghouse.

The innovation fund would provide seed money from foreign investors through the EB-5 program. The clearinghouse would help move innovative ideas into the marketplace.

I-Cubed would act as a broker for licensing, legal services, and collaborative research between institutions that come up with ideas, and companies that could create products from the ideas.

The state Commerce Department is backing the new company and helping it negotiate with the Department of Homeland Security as well as using its trade representatives to find potential investors in China, Mexico and other countries.

Mark Rudin, vice president for research at Boise State University, said the company could help bring ideas for products into the marketplace. “If we ever struggle finding a place for a piece of IP (intellectual property), we would certainly look into having I-Cubed help us out.”