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Vermont Governor Unveils Plan to Boost High-Tech Jobs

February 09, 2011

Vermont Gov. Pete Shumlin has released a jobs package that includes a number of initiatives that could enhance the state's innovation economy. The jobs bill calls for a new creative economy office that would focus on technology efforts, a mentoring program for entrepreneurs, a statewide internship program, and a tax credit for companies that hire STEM graduates. Gov. Shumlin also has renewed his predecessor's pledge to extend full wireless voice and data coverage across the state.

The governor, announcing the jobs bill last week, said that the legislation is intended to help stimulate every sector of Vermont's economy. Accordingly, most of the bill's provisions benefit the state's agriculture and food industries. Several initiatives, however, specifically target manufacturing, high-tech businesses and entrepreneurship.

The bill includes a tax credit for companies that employ recent graduates in science, technology, engineering and math fields. Vermont employers of qualified grads would be able to claim 50 percent of expenditures (up to $5,000 per year per new hire) toward relieving the student's debt. The graduate would be eligible to receive a $5,000 income tax credit each year for five years. A new R&D tax credit would provide a credit equal to 30 percent of the federal tax credit allowed in the taxable year.

The package would leverage federal programs to increase the availability of capital for small businesses. The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, which provides grants, technical assistance and loans to promote sustainably-produced goods and services, would apply for Community Development Fund Institution (CDFI) designation, making it eligible for $2 million from the U.S. Treasury program. This funding would be used to capitalize the Flexible Capital Fund, a program that provides technical assistance and mezzanine debt to early and growth-stage businesses. The governor hopes to educate the state's regional development corporations about the federal New Market Tax Credit programs and attract private investment in underserved areas. The bill also calls for the expansion of the state's EB5 Visa program to attract foreign capital in exchange for permanent residency.

Other provisions include a new Creative Economy Office, which would focus on technology and other portions of the creative economy, a new corps of mentors to advise younger entrepreneurs and an internship program that connects high school and college students to Vermont employers.

Read the governor's announcement ...

Gov. Shumlin also recently rekindled former Gov. Jim Douglas' effort to provide border-to-border wireless data and voice services. Initially, Gov. Douglas set the goal of full service by the end of 2010. Gov. Shumlin revised that timeline to the end of 2013, pledging to spend $13 million on the necessary infrastructure. The state would also leverage funds from the federal stimulus and state revenue bonds.

Read more at: http://www.vermontbiz.com/news/january/shumlin-announces-karen-marshall-lead-connect-vt-effort.