Government & Politics  June 9, 2023

Editorial: Legislature got it right when it extended advanced-industry programs

Colorado, along with the federal government, understandably catches heat for placing burdens on small and medium-sized businesses.

From the state’s new FAMLI law, which requires employee and employer contributions to a family-leave benefit, to the federal government’s Consolidated Appropriations Act, meant to provide greater transparency in health care and health-insurance programs, businesses are incurring real costs in compliance.

Add in new minimum-wage and overtime rules, non-compete laws, and notification requirements for when an employee leaves a business, and the red tape gets stickier and stickier.

But, even as the Colorado General Assembly passed other measures in the recent session that add to the burdens on business, legislators also passed a significant measure that extends the life of an incredibly valuable economic-development program: the Advanced Industry Acceleration Programs.

The Advanced Industry Export Acceleration program was due to sunset on Jan. 1, 2025, and the Advanced Industries Acceleration Grant program was to end July 1, 2024.

Senate Bill 23-066 extends both programs for another decade; the measure was signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis. Prime sponsors — bipartisan, by the way — included Sens. Cleave Simpson and Chris Hansen, and Reps. Shannon Bird and Mike Lynch.

The programs provide grants to support key, high-wage industries, including

  • • Advanced manufacturing.
  • • Aerospace.
  • • Bioscience.
  • • Electronics.
  • • Energy and natural resources.
  • • Infrastructure engineering.
  • • Technology and information.

“The Colorado Advanced Industry Grant program provides early-risk capital that is greatly needed in our growing technology ecosystem,” Mike Freeman, CEO of Fort Collins-based Innosphere Ventures, an incubator supporting high-tech startups, said recently. Freeman thanked Polis, the state Legislature and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade  “for their unwavering support of this essential grant program.”

In late May alone, 37 companies and six researchers statewide received more than $9.7 million in grants through the programs, with more than half of the recipients hailing from the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado.

OEDIT soon will open applications for the next round of grants, including the Advanced Industries Proof of Concept Grant and the Advanced Industries Early-Stage Capital and Retention Grant, both opening July 3, and the Advanced Industries Collaborative Infrastructure Grant, opening Feb. 4, 2024. Applications are being accepted now for the Advanced Industries Export Grant.

The grants facilitate development of key technologies and innovation, helping to ensure that Colorado remains dominant or competitive in the industries of the future, and they have real impact on startups seeking funding options.

So, even as the state imposes new regulations on businesses, let’s give credit where it’s due and acknowledge renewal of a program that works.

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