Gov. Peter Shumlin today signed multi-faceted legislation providing support for start-up, expansion and retention to high tech companies that offer good wages and a bright future in Vermont. In addition, the law creates the Vermont Strong Scholars Program to help families afford a college education for their children in the cutting edge employment fields.
"We have the second lowest unemployment rate in America, and we've created nearly 11,000 jobs since 2011," Gov. Shumlin said of S.220, the bill's legislative number. "Vermont is home to one of the top ten most promising tech hubs in America, and we've become a leader in charting a cleaner, greener energy future."
He said smaller states like Vermont can't go head-to-head on economic incentives offered by New York, California and other states to continue to build this sector. But he said, "The new law provides additional economic tools to give companies the edge they need to start here, grow here and stay here."
The law signed today adds $500,000 in State General Funds to the $1 million in federal funds available to VEDA's Vermont Entrepreneurial Lending Program. The program creates a loan loss reserve to reduce the risk of lending to start up tech and other companies in Vermont promoting high value jobs. The program will help foster the next generation of successful companies home grown right here in Vermont.
A separate bill, previous signed but clearly partnered with S.220, created the Vermont Enterprise Incentive Fund to allow the Governor to offer supplemental incentives to businesses, in a total amount not to exceed $4.5 million, in "unforeseen or extraordinary circumstances" that would affect the state's ability to attract or retain companies with substantial statewide or regional employment impact.
That Fund is designed to provide a measure of flexibility in the state's response to competition and other outside factors that sometimes arise suddenly and require action greater than the state's current economic development incentive programs allow. Legislative approval of any Governor-recommended incentives will be required by the Emergency Board.
In addition, under the Vermont Strong Scholars Program, students who go to college in Vermont and agree to work in the state after they graduate can now receive their final year of college for free.
The law also makes technology improvements eligible for funding under the Downtown Tax Credit program, and authorizes the State Treasurer to invest through a credit facility up to 10 percent of the state's average cash balance of Vermont funds back into Vermont.
"Our unemployment rate is the second lowest in the country, but we've got to keep fighting to bring good jobs to Vermont, while helping our employers thrive and expand," Gov. Shumlin said. He said the tech industry is ideal for these incentives, adding that Vermont has become a leader in this area. One engineering or development job can create 20 more jobs in production and manufacturing, the Governor added.
Gov. Shumlin noted the success of firms like MyWebGrocer, where the bill was signed today, Dealer.com, My Web Grocer, Concepts NREC, BioTek, Global Z, Logic Supply, and others as examples of what our existing tools have helped accomplish in Vermont.
Among other changes:
The Vermont Enterprise Investment Fund authorizes the Governor to offer an incentive package to businesses, not to exceed a total cumulative value of $4.5 million, contingent upon approval by the Emergency Board, in unforeseen or extraordinary circumstances.
Those include the acquisition of a large Vermont business at risk of relocation outside the state; an existing business in Vermont, which is a division or subsidiary of a multistate or multinational company, at risk of closure or a significantly reduced workforce; or a business considering Vermont for relocation or expansion.
To be eligible for utilization of the Fund, the project must have a substantial statewide or regional economic or employment impact; investigated, been approved for, or have the potential to be approved for other state programs and incentives.
Vermont Entrepreneurial Lending Program adds $500,000 to the $1 million federal funding for VEDA's fund, which is designed to lay even better groundwork on the startup end for new and emerging technology companies.