Bill would advance key industries

Innovative. We hear that term often referring to research performed at Colorado universities, federal labs and private companies. It’s not often that we hear it regarding actions of the state Legislature.

But “innovative” is the perfect way to describe the Colorado Advanced Industries Accelerator Act, which is being considered.

House Bill 13-1001 would authorize funding for proof-of-concept grants, seed money and retention, and infrastructure grants to businesses in key industries. Sectors targeted include advanced manufacturing, aerospace, bioscience, electronics, energy and natural resources, infrastructure engineering, and information technology — all of which are important to the strength and vibrancy of the Boulder Valley economy.

Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, is a Senate co-sponsor, and the bill has the support of leaders in both houses of the Legislature as well as Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The proposal envisions spending $15 million per year, with proof-of-concept grants capped at $150,000 and early-stage capital grants and retention incentives capped at $250,000. Infrastructure grants would be capped at $500,000.

Many details need to be worked out for the act to succeed — a thorough vetting process and transparency among them. Also, a source for the funds needs to be finalized.

But we’re encouraged by some of the criteria that have been announced, including a requirement for matching funds from the private sector. This mandates that private companies have substantial “skin in the game.”

Additionally, the proof-of-concept grants will go toward research performed at Colorado institutions. Early-state capital and retention grants will go toward companies that have at least 50 percent of their employees in Colorado.

This proposal represents an innovative way for government to help fill the void in financing for Colorado’s key sectors. It should be approved.

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