The Senate on Thursday unanimously passed two bills as amended to advance a 21st century Alabama economy in which innovation and entrepreneurship can flourish.
HB 540, sponsored by Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) and HB 609, sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Gray (D-Opelika), both stem from interim policy recommendations made by the Alabama Innovation Commission, of which Poole is the chair. Senate Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper), vice-chairman of the committee, is the sponsor of the two complementary bills in the upper house. Senator Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) wore the HB 609 on Tuesday, highlighting the bipartisan nature of the effort.
The first bill, HB 540, would establish the Alabama Innovation Corporation. This entity would act as a public-private partnership to promote specific initiatives in favor of state-wide entrepreneurship, rural enterprises, research and development in existing enterprises and access to advanced technological skills that will boost a modern workforce.
The company would be primarily responsible for making Alabama a hub for technology and innovation, supporting activities and initiatives that enhance that growth in all corners of our state.
“This bill is a high priority for the Alabama Innovation Commission, of which I serve as vice president, and will have a strong impact on the future of our state,” Reed said in a statement. .
Also known as Innovate in Alabama, the Alabama Innovation Commission was established by Governor Kay Ivey in July 2020 as the state of Alabama’s first commission focused on innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship.
“The company will be under the direction of a board of directors, which will include representatives from the governor, the legislature and six deputy heads who have expertise and experience in growing an entrepreneurial economy,” explained Reed. .
“I thank Rep. Bill Poole, who sits on the Alabama Innovation Commission as chairman, for his work on this bill and moving it out of the House. As we seek ways to move our state forward, it is clear that the ability to innovate will help us in our efforts to foster a more inclusive, robust and resilient economy statewide, ”he added.
Meanwhile, HB 609 would create the Innovate Alabama matching grant program to promote research and development in the state of Yellowhammer.
The program would match federal scholarships with recipients of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) research in Alabama. The SBIR and STTR awards are useful for companies whose technologies can be commercialized, supporting entrepreneurs in a wide range of industries, including biotechnology.
“This is a golden opportunity for our small businesses in general, and our minority-owned businesses in particular, to be able to grow and progress because this legislation prioritizes the focus on under-represented businesses for awards, ”Smitherman said. “These bills also allow our HBCUs and all universities to partner with small businesses by developing a marketing campaign that ensures that underrepresented businesses and HBCUs are aware of the grants available under the SBIR and STTR programs. It is a win-win solution for our state. “
Reed concluded, “These economic development incentives will allow the state of Alabama to align with federal government grants to encourage businesses, entrepreneurs and employers to come to Alabama to make our state a home. . It will have an immediate impact on our state, and I thank Representative Gray for sponsoring it in the House and Senator Smitherman for passing the bill in the Senate.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn