A multi-million dollar greenhouse. Health drinks distributed from remotely-controlled kiosks. A crowd of foreign investors eager to back a project in rural New Mexico.
Acoma and the Grants-based Bright Green Group of Companies said in a press release Thursday they have partnered to create a $160 million greenhouse and research facility for medicinal plants on 150 acres of Acoma Pueblo land. While the announcement mentions that the project is bankrolled with foreign investment through a special immigration program, less obvious is the fact that the project has paved the way for 125 wealthy foreign investors, mostly from China, to come to the United States.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services program known as the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program allows foreign investors to get a green card if they invest at least $500,000 in a U.S. business through a federally-certified regional development center. The money must lead to the employment, either directly or indirectly, of 10 people over two years in an economically depressed area.
John Stockwell, Bright Green’s CEO, said 125 EB-5 investors, primarily from China, funded the project by purchasing shares of his company for $800,000 per investor.
“It’s easy to build a hotel in Miami or a sports field in Indianapolis, but to do it where jobs are needed is another issue,” said Stockwell. “This is a great opportunity for the Acoma Pueblo and New Mexico.”
He said the research portion of the project will focus on using a gene-splicing method to enhance the medicinal purposes of the plants. The company’s core product will be “pharmaceutical-grade” oil extracted from the altered plants. Bright Green’s website says the company is also developing a line of “health and enjoyment” drinks distributed through remotely controlled kiosks.
Construction is expected to begin after leases are signed by the pueblo.
Stockwell also owns a greenhouse in Grants that is currently closed. His previous company, Sunnyland Farms Inc., went bankrupt after a fire destroyed its greenhouse in Estancia. He said the Grants greenhouse would be folded into the new operation and become another location for the medicinal plants to grow.
He said the EB-5 investors have not yet received their visas. He said his company is in the process of filing for a special status from the federal agency that will allow the EB-5 applications to be processed more quickly.
The project will include water, gas, and electric utilities that will be made available to the tribe. The greenhouse, which will be fully automated, will have the capacity to grow 40 million plants per year.
Although the company said in its press release it is in the process of licensing federal government patents related to marijuana, Newhouse said Bright Green plans to focus on other medicinal plants “until federal laws change.”