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Innovation Corporation bills pass the House

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Two bills meant to promote and boost entrepreneurship in the state overwhelmingly passed the Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday.

House Bill 540 from Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, would create the Alabama Innovation Corporation to help increase Alabama’s competitiveness in areas of technology and innovation as it relates to economic development strategies.

“I think it’s very good for the state to grow a sector of our economy that we really haven’t focused on in our state,” Poole said. “It’s the sector of the future, this is the future of our economy.”

The bill passed with a final vote of 102-1. Rep. Andrew Sorrell, R-Muscle Shoals, was the no vote.

The Alabama Innovation Commission proposed the corporation as part of its interim recommendations on strategies that will help the state spur innovation and support talent attractions and retention.

A substitute version of the bill was passed that adds language to make sure minority representation was included on the board of the entity.

The 2022 state education budget currently being developed by House members has a new appropriation of $4 million to go specifically to the Innovation Corporation. The House plans to vote on that budget next week.

A companion bill, House Bill 609, also passed the House overwhelmingly on Thursday with a final vote of 97-1 Sorrell again being the only vote against.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Gray, D-Opelika, and would allow the Alabama Innovation Corporation to make matching grants of up to $250,000 to entities that received federal Small Business Innovation Research grants or Technology Transfer Research grants. It also sets guidelines for awarding the matching grants.

Gray said approving the grants will help make Alabama competitive with 22 other states that offer them.

“This will help leverage our state dollars by pulling down federal dollars and help our state up and tech businesses in the state,” Gray said.

The Education Trust Fund has a new appropriation of $5 million for the grant program.

Both bills now go to the Senate.

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