April 23, 2021
MONTGOMERY — The House of Representatives on Thursday passed two bills to advance a 21st century Alabama economy in which innovation and entrepreneurship can flourish.
HB 540, sponsored by Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa), and HB 609, sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Gray (D-Opelika), both stem from interim policy recommendations made by the Alabama Innovation Commission, of which Poole is chair. Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper), the vice chair of the commission, is the sponsor of both companion bills in the upper chamber.
The first of the bills, HB 540, would establish the Alabama Innovation Corporation. This 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.
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.
Also known as Innovate Alabama, the Alabama Innovation Commission was created by Governor Kay Ivey in July 2020 as Alabama’s first statewide commission focused on innovation, technology and entrepreneurship.
“HB 540 is the latest example of the meaningful, forward-thinking work being accomplished by the Alabama Innovation Commission,” commented Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield, a Commission advisory council member. “This legislation would advance our economy in meaningful ways, creating more technology-based jobs and growth opportunities in all corners of the state.”
Meanwhile, HB 609 would create the Innovate Alabama Matching Grant Program to promote research and development in the Yellowhammer State.
The program would match federal awards to Alabama-based Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) 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.
“The Alabama Innovation Commission has been instrumental in supporting the development of forward-thinking policies that would impact the state,” Gray stated. “State matching programs like this make it more attractive for small businesses to pursue SBIR and STTR funding and to conduct innovative research in Alabama. This program would continue to build entrepreneurship in the state to ensure Alabama is a leader in innovation.”
Poole is a cosponsor of HB 609, as well.
“These pieces of legislation have the ability to drive Alabama’s success and future growth while creating more opportunities for Alabamians in every corner of the state,” Poole said. “I’m excited about these bills and know that they will be transformational for our state’s economy. I’m appreciative of Gov. Ivey’s vision for prioritizing innovation and supporting entrepreneurship and jobs.”
The bills now head to the Senate for consideration.
“Alabama has been at the forefront of innovation for years and this is the latest example of how the state continues to develop solutions that will drive our economy forward,” Reed has remarked. “The establishment of the Alabama Innovation Corporation will assist in our efforts to foster a more inclusive, robust and resilient economy across the state. I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues in the legislature to pass this impactful legislation.”
HB 540 passed the House in a 102-1 vote, while HB 609 passed 97-1.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn