June 24, 2024

Truc “Curt” Tran has finally confirmed what many have long suspected: ITFederal will not open in Front Royal on the 30-acre tract of land he purchased from the Front Royal-Warren County EDA for one dollar.

Tran has also  confirmed that the once-touted project, which was to be a $40-million investment in the community and provide 400-600 employees high-wage jobs, is actually an EB5-Visa program project.

The EB5-Visa program, which began in 1990, offers permanent residency (also known as a green card) to foreigners to invest between $500,000 to $1 million in a “targeted employment area”, defined as a rural area or an area in which the unemployment rate is at least 150 percent of the national unemployment rate at the time of the EB-5 investment, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Original artist’s conception of first ITFederal structure; below, what is going up today, a one-story, 10,000 s.f. office building. Courtesy Graphics EDA

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website states that the national unemployment rate for the last quarter of 2015, which is when Tran’s ITFederal project was announced with great fanfare by then-Congressman Robert Goodlatte, was five percent. Using the EB5-Visa program formula, a 10 percent unemployment rate for Front Royal during that quarter would have been required for Tran to qualify for the EB-5 program. According to the Virginia Labor Market Information website, Warren County had a 4.2 percent unemployment rate in Dec., 2015.

The EDA passed a resolution on July 1, 2015 to loan $10 million to ITFederal. The Promissory note with Tran for ITFederal, dated Sept. 16, 2015 was prepared by Blair Mitchell, former County Attorney and legal counsel to the EDA.

Front Royal Mayor Tharpe and Truc Tran have a chat outside the EDA office building on Dec. 20, 2018, while the board held its monthly meeting.

The Town Council of Front Royal, at the request of the EDA, and “to approve and support the Industrial Development Authority in obtaining a loan not to exceed ten million dollars for the purpose of economic development within the town limits” unanimously approved a resolution on Nov. 23, 2015 for a bridge loan to Tran because they believed he would soon begin a $40 million project that would benefit the community.

Royal Examiner reached out to former EDA Board Chairman Greg Drescher on March 7 to inquire about the due diligence that was performed regarding Tran before asking the Town of Front Royal to loan him $10 million.

Drescher replied that former Director Jennifer McDonald would have been responsible for conducting any evaluation or vetting process, and forwarded our information request to Interim Executive Director John Anzivino.

Anzivino replied on March 12 that “former Executive Director, Jennifer McDonald, was responsible for developing and completing any background investigation or reference checking that would have occurred regarding WCEDA business prospects or prospective borrowers.

“In response to your request I have audited the Authority’s existing files and regret that we cannot provide information specific to your inquiry because, in accordance with the Virginia Code Ann. §2.2-3704(B)(3), the requested records could not be found or do not exist.”

Tran says that because he’s had trouble attracting investors, ITFederal will not open. The current building, greatly scaled back from a three-phase campus with jobs for up to 600, to a still-under-construction 10,000 square foot single building could cost him to spend just $2 million.

Though his original agreement with the EDA, signed on July 3, 2015 stated the terms  “to be defined as the earlier to occur of the two following events–certificate of occupancy of the 28,500 square foot bldg. OR $5 million expenditure ” those terms were adjusted downward on  Feb. 27, 2017; the agreement was amended to 10,00 square feet and $2 million on February 27, 2017.

While Tran may not be able to get investors interested in the former Avtex site, and has fallen woefully short of delivering up as many as 600 high-paying jobs for local workers who held out hope they would materialize, he can likely serve up a cup of joe at his latest venture, a coffee shop in Alexandria, Va.

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