Thursday, August 14, 2014

Governor Signs Economic Development Bill

In the closing days of its formal sessions, the Massachusetts Legislature passed an economic development bill that includes many items that the Mass Technology Leadership Council and other technology and business groups strongly advocated for with lawmakers.

These items address some of the key issues that technology company leaders have raised with policy makers over the past year, as they relate to the overall climate for tech companies, support for start-ups and early state companies and shortages of skilled workers.  Other provisions create a positive regulatory structure for wireless technologies, focus on growth areas like Big Data and provide matching dollars for programs to develop computer science skills in elementary and high school.

Where consensus was not reached on other issues like non-compete agreements, representatives of both sides of this issue began a very important dialogue around how agreements like these affect the state’s ability to start and grow companies that need to protect intellectual property while at the same time retaining highly skilled workers.

We look forward to working with the Legislature and the new Governor on more ways to leverage the strengths of our technology sector and grow the innovation economy across the state.

We thank the Governor and the Legislature for their focus on the innovation economy and their support across the tech sector. Highlights of the bill follow.

Tech Highlights from HB 4377: 
  • Provides $1.5M to the Massachusetts Computing Attainment Network (MassCAN) Program to develop and implement a plan establish computer science education in public schools across the Commonwealth. Requiring a dollar-for-dollar funding match from private sector contributions, the program will generate interest in computer science among underrepresented demographics and provide schools with course and curriculum recommendations aimed at strengthening the growth and vitality of the Commonwealth’s technology industry.
  • Creates a $2M Big Data Innovation and Workforce Fund to promote the use of big data, open data, and analytics. The Fund will bring together the public and private sectors to prepare the Massachusetts workforce for big data careers and help identify problems and provide technology-based solutions in various areas of public policy concern, including transportation, public health, and energy.
  • Provides $1M for a Start-up Mentoring Program to connect early-stage entrepreneurs, technology start-ups, and small businesses with successful, experienced business enterprises and capital financing.
  • Provides $1M to the Talent Pipeline Program, which will match, dollar-for-dollar, stipends for interns at technology and innovation start-ups. Massachusetts’ universities educate some of the world’s best students. This program will build connections between that talent pool and in-state early-stage companies, encouraging both to remain in Massachusetts for the long-term.
  • Modifies the Research & Development Tax Credit formula to align Massachusetts with the federal tax code by providing the Alternative Simplified Credit (ASC) as an option for taxpayers. This modification will apply only to R&D activities conducted within the state. The adoption of the ASC will incentivize investment, spur job growth, and strengthen the overall economic climate.
  • Provides $3M for the Global Entrepreneur Program, which creates a 3-year pilot program to allow international students to pursue practical training in entrepreneurship.
  • Provides $1.5M for MassVentures, which supports the innovation economy by funding early-stage, high-growth Massachusetts start-ups as they move from concept to commercialization.
  • Provides $2M for the Innovation Commercialization Seed Fund to provide strategic investments at both public and private research institutions in Massachusetts. The seed funding will enable researchers to demonstrate the commercial potential of an invention or business idea and allow these projects to progress to commercialization.
  • Provides $700,000 for the Commonwealth’s Defense Sector Initiatives, including education and training programs for workforce development on military installations.
  • Provides $1M for Marine Hydrokinetic Research at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and establish partnerships with the private sector in marine hydrokinetics.
  • Creates a Job Creation Incentive under the Economic Development Incentive Program (EDIP), allowing businesses to receive a tax credit of up to $1,000 per job created, or up to $5,000 per job created in a Gateway City and areas of particular economic need, so long as the total credit per project does not exceed $1M.
  • Establishes and provides $12M for the Middle Skills Job Training Grant Fund to provide grants to vocational-technical schools and community colleges to support advanced manufacturing, mechanical and technical skills, hospitality and information technology industries training. The Fund seeks to train 4,000 workers over the next four years to address the workforce and talent pipeline needs of employers in Massachusetts.
  • Provides $1.5M for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund for workforce development and job training to meet the current demands in industry sectors with critical vacancies, with a particular focus on low-income and low-skilled workers.
  • Provides $1M for the Department of Higher Education to develop, implement and promote stackable credentials programs at public higher education institutions to ensure students build sustainable and worthwhile careers.
  • Expansion of the Small Business Banking Partnership program allowing PRIM to invest at least $150 million in institutions that make capital available to small businesses and early-stage companies.
  • Establishes a $15M Transformative Development Fund to enable equity investments and technical assistance to revitalize and support residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional development in Gateway Cities. Up to $2M of the Fund will support the creation of Collaborative Workspaces in Gateway Cities, which will be created in underutilized buildings to spur innovative and creative business growth and economic activity. 

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