Florida Chamber urging passage of research and development grants
By Lou Ortiz
A bill making its way through the Florida Legislature would provide matching grants of up to $250,000 to small business for new viable ideas and technologies.
The bill is being promoted, in part, by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which says the grants are needed to retain start-up businesses.
The legislation would help "transform research results into products in the marketplace," according to a draft of the bill.
"This bill is a priority for us this session," said Gabe Sheheane, a governmental affairs lobbyist for the chamber.
"We have a talent base that comes up with great ideas, and we have to get those ideas to the market," he said. "They accelerate commercialization activities."
The federal government allocates $2 billion a year to help small businesses explore new opportunities through the Small Business Innovation Research Program and the Small Business Technology Program.
If approved, the Florida legislation would provide grants of $100,000 to $250,000 to small firms that have received monies from the federal programs.
The bill, with similar versions in the House and Senate, would allocate $5 million annually for the grants. Enterprise Florida, the state's economic development arm, would administer the grants.
"The matching grant program is specifically intended to be a catalyst for small or startup companies that can take advantage of federal and state partnerships in order to accelerate their growth and market penetration by helping to overcome the funding gap faced by many small companies that are based in the state," the bill says.
The goals of the legislation include speeding the entry of new technology-based products into the market, creating more jobs in the state, helping to leverage resources to aid in success, and encouraging the growth of technology firms in the state.
The chamber says North Carolina, Indiana, Hawaii and other states already provide small business with matching grants that are tied to the federal programs.
"They would apply for the federal program first," said Mr. Sheheane. "In the second phase, we want to match those grants.
"These folks would have been vetted through the federal program," he said, "It's a no-brainer job creator."
Whether the measure passes or fails will be known by the time the current legislative session ends May 2.