Dems’ first legislation to focus on tech jobs

DENVER — The first bill Democrats will introduce into the Colorado House when the Legislature convenes the 2013 session on Wednesday is designed to help boost science-based companies in the state.

Dubbed “The Advanced Industries Accelerator Act,” Gov. John Hickenlooper and lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle unveiled HB 1001 Monday, which would create a new $15 million program to offer grants and other incentives to help existing and start-up companies in such industries as bioscience, electronics and natural resources.

The idea is to encourage more scientific-based companies to locate and expand here, and bring high-paying jobs with them.

“(The bill) sends the clear message to Colorado innovators that we are there for them for the long haul ... and that Colorado can compete with anyone in the world in industries ranging from beer brewing to sending people to space,” said incoming House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver. “It helps ensure Colorado’s equipped to handle the next economy.”

The matching grants will be designed to help various companies at various stages in their attempts to commercialize innovative ideas, from research and development to training and retaining skilled workers to creating the infrastructure needed to manufacture actual products.

Currently, about 12 percent of all Colorado businesses are considered advanced industries, making up more than 520,300 jobs — about 16 percent of all jobs in the state — according to the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

Collectively, their impact on the economy is about $2 billion a year.

The bill is to be introduced by Reps. Dave Young, D-Greeley, and Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen.

“This is an opportunity for Colorado to gain a competitive edge over states and to compete on an international level. That’s what’s really important because Colorado is primed to do that,” Gerou said. “It’s not just advanced industries that are going to benefit. They’ll be creating spin-off effects throughout the economy.”

Later today, Democrats are to release details of other economic development measures they plan to introduce during the session.

Some of the ideas they are expected to include are bills to create a state pilot program to provide high-tech support to new businesses and increase funding to the state’s Small Business Development Centers.


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