Thursday, January 17, 2013

First big eco-devo bill clears House committee

A bipartisan bill that would bolster up-and-coming Colorado industries by making available grants from state funds cleared a House committee Thursday, moving quickly onto a fast track.

HB 1001 would set aside $12.5 million for entrepreneurs in a range of "advanced industries" that include aerospace, advanced manufacturing, bioscience, electronics, energy and natural resources, technology, and information and infrastructure engineering.

Of that sum, $7 million would be available only to bio-science and other "clean technology" industries. Start-ups in the other covered industry groups could seek funding from the remaining balance.

"Already, Colorado’s research institutions and federal labs bring in close to $2 billion a year in advanced technology research funding,” Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley and the bill's lead sponsor, said. "This legislation will help us leverage even more dollars, as well as accelerate the commercialization process, which will lead to more products, companies and jobs.”

The bill would set up three separate grant programs to assist with the challenges faced during the start-up process.

The first focuses on research needed to establish that a product concept is viable. It would require that the work be done in appropriate institutions within the state and the grant size would be limited to $150,000.

The second would provide funds for the early start-up stage. The maximum grant would be $250,000. At least half of the venture's employees would have to be based in Colorado.

The third grant program would allow start-ups to seek funding for needed infrastructure. The maximum award would be $500,000.

The vote in the House Business, Labor, Economic and Workforce Development Committee was 8-3.

Republicans Chris Holbert of Parker, Dan Nordberg of , and Libby Szabo of Arvada opposed the measure.

Holbert argued that the bill is not needed because entrepreneurs can obtain initial financing of business ventures from private capital funds and banks.

HB 1001 now heads to the House Appropriations Committee. Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, is co-sponsoring the bill.

According to statistics cited by Gov. John Hickenlooper in a press conference last week that announced the bill, industries covered by the proposed legislation account for more than 500,000 of all jobs in the state and about one-third of wages earned by Colorado workers.