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Senate passes priority economic development bills

The two bills were passed by the Senate and were priority bills for the Alabama Innovation Commission.


The Alabama Senate on Tuesday passed two bills that were a top priority of the Alabama Innovation Commission. Sponsors claim that the bills will put the state on the path toward a brighter future

House Bill 540 is sponsored by state Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, and carried on the floor of the Senate by Senate Pro Tem Greg Reed, R-Jasper. HB540 would establish the Alabama Innovation Corporation. This new entity would act as a public-private partnership to promote specific initiatives in support of statewide entrepreneurship, rural businesses, research and development at existing companies, and access to advanced tech skills that will drive a modern workforce.

“This bill is an important priority of the Alabama Innovation Commission, which I serve on as vice-chairman, and will have a strong impact on our state’s future,” Reed said in a statement.

“Through the establishment of this statewide commission, we will be able to focus in on the innovation, technology and entrepreneurship-related issues that will be critical in giving Alabama the tools needed to grow our economy and allow our state to continue to be a great place to do business,” Reed said. “The corporation will be under the management of a board of directors, which will include representation from the Governor, the legislature, and six at-large directors that have expertise and experience in growing an entrepreneurial economy.”

The corporation would primarily be charged with making Alabama a hub for technology and innovation, supporting activities and initiatives that enhance this growth in all corners of our state.

“I thank Representative Bill Poole, who serves on the Alabama Innovation Commission as its chairman, for his work on this bill and moving it out of the House,” Reed said. “As we look at ways to drive our state forward, it is clear that the ability to innovate will assist in our efforts to foster a more inclusive, robust and resilient economy across the state.”

The second innovation bill passed today was House Bill 609. It was sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Gray, D-Opelika, in the House and carried by Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, in the Senate. It would create the Innovate Alabama Matching Grant Program to promote research and development in the Yellowhammer State.

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“This is a golden opportunity for our small businesses in general, and our minority-owned businesses in particular, to be able to grow and advance because this legislation prioritizing the focus on underrepresented companies for awards,” Smitherman said. “These bills also provide an avenue for our HBCUs and all universities to partner with small businesses by developing a marketing campaign which ensures that underrepresented companies and HBCUs are aware of the grants available through the SBIR and STTR programs. It’s a win-win for our state.”

The program would match federal awards to Alabama-based Small Business Innovation Research or Small Business Technology Transfer Research recipients. SBIR and STTR awards are helpful for companies with technologies that can be commercialized, supporting entrepreneurs throughout a large array of industries, including biotechnology.

“These economic development incentives will allow the state of Alabama to match grants from the federal government to encourage businesses, entrepreneurs and employers to come to Alabama make our state home,” Reed said. “This will have an immediate impact on our state, and I appreciate Representative Gray for sponsoring it in the House, and Senator Smitherman for carrying the bill in the Senate.”

The House focused its entire day on the medical marijuana bill.

The Legislature will meet Thursday for day 29 of the 2021 Legislative Session. The last day of the session will be May 17.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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