Baldwin bill targets Wisconsin growth industries

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) today introduced the Small Business Innovation Act of 2013, a bill to help fuel small business job creation and economic growth.

The legislation, Baldwin’s first bill in the U.S. Senate, is designed to help provide startup businesses the capital they need to grow their companies and create jobs.

The bill would expand the Small Business Administration’s authorization to provide up to $4 billion in leverage to Small Business Investment Companies (SBICs).

“Our ‘Made in Wisconsin’ work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit needs to be supported and strengthened. That is why I am introducing the Small Business Innovation Act of 2013,” Baldwin said. “When our startup small businesses grow, Wisconsin families get ahead and the economic security of the middle class is strengthened. In order to build long-term economic growth, we need to make a strong commitment to supporting investments in advanced manufacturing, innovation, science, research and technology.”

According to a Kaufman Foundation report, Wisconsin has the fourth-lowest percentage of residents engaged in entrepreneurial activity last year and the second biggest decline in entrepreneurship from a decade ago.

Baldwin’s Small Business Innovation Act of 2013 would provide investments in economic growth not through direct government funding, but through increased access to venture capital investments for small business startups. The legislation seeks to help build long-term economic growth for Wisconsin by targeting growth industries, including advanced manufacturing; biotechnology; clean energy, environmental and agricultural technology; digital and information technology; and water technology.

“Manufacturing has long been the backbone of our Wisconsin economy. This legislation recognizes that fact and targets industries that are engaged primarily in researching, developing, and manufacturing products,” Baldwin said, “It also strengthens our investment in the building blocks of an innovation economy – science, research and technology – and will help us create an economy built to last.”

Baldwin said her legislation also does something that Wisconsin’s recently passed state venture capital fund does not – it includes Wisconsin biotechnology and life sciences. The bill also includes preference for startups that have previously shown promise by receiving grants from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, or Small Business Innovation Research program.

The bill drew immediate praise from venture capital and biomedical advocates in Wisconsin.

Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council and Wisconsin Innovation Network, said, “Using the Small Business Administration to leverage private venture capital in an effort to target high-growth industries makes sense for America’s innovation sector. Of special interest to private investors will be the requirement that qualified companies in the program will include recipients of federal merit-based grants, such as Small Business Innovation Research grants. These are tech-based companies that have already demonstrated commercial potential and have survived a rigorous competitive process to win such grants. For investors, that means significant due diligence has already taken place and their risk is reduced because they are investing in companies with demonstrated potential.”

Bryan Renk, executive director of BioForward, said, “BioForward applauds Senator Baldwin’s effort in pushing to support the Bioscience sector in Wisconsin and the ability to have access to investment capital. Investment capital is a key component to the continued growth of a sector which grew jobs during the recession in the state at 5 percent while Wisconsin’s overall job growth during the same period decreased at 6.5 percent. Supporting innovation in the state can only be a positive long term for Wisconsin’s economic future.”

Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), said, “The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation is very pleased that Senator Baldwin is introducing the Small Business Innovation Act of 2013. If enacted, this Act will provide a very helpful funding tool for startup companies in Wisconsin, particularly in the biotechnology area that is not being addressed by the State of Wisconsin venture capital fund-of-funds. We also appreciate that the Act gives preference to startup companies developing technology originally funded by NSF and NIH. UW-Madison is one of the leading universities for federally funded research and yet there is an insufficient amount of venture capital in our state to fund the startup companies wanting to develop university inventions arising from federally funded research. That is why this type of legislation is so necessary. We know that if this legislation is enacted, it will help us create jobs and keep the development and commercialization of federally funded inventions in Wisconsin.”

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