Gov. Peter Shumlin and legislative leaders want to devote up to $5 million to help the state attract and keep high tech jobs.
Shumlin says the money will add flexibility and speed to the state’s economic development effort.
Vermont already has programs to help businesses, but they are loan programs, like those administered by the Vermont Economic Development Authority, or the tax incentives offered through Vermont Economic Progress Council.
This is something new.
Shumlin says the proposed Vermont Enterprise Incentive Fund would provide money to keep or attract high-paying research and development jobs in “unforeseen or extraordinary circumstances".
The circumstances could involve a business that is considering moving to Vermont or where there is the danger that a business might be moved out of state.
The money could be used in any of a number of ways: To pay for employee training and education, to offset property taxes or even match incentives offered to the company by another state.
The $4.5 million for the program would be taken from the fiscal year surplus and would only be available if there is one.
Shumlin says the state is at a disadvantage compared to incentives other states offer, but he says he’s convinced the new fund will make a critical difference.
“$4.5 million isn’t so small for Vermont,” he says. “This is the biggest initiative that a governor has ever had at their disposal to be able to attract high paying research and development high-tech jobs.”
The size and nature of the incentives would be determined by the Emergency Board, which includes representatives of the administration and the legislature.
“There will be full oversight as to what happens with this money to make a determination that it is going to the right place and being spent so we can make sure that we grow jobs here,” says Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell.
The new fund will also give the state the ability to respond more rapidly than in the past to provide incentives to companies.
The Governor and legislative leaders also propose using another $500,000 from any state surplus to augment a Vermont Economic Development Authority program.
The Vermont Entrepreneurial Lending Program is designed to be a reserve fund to reduce the risk of lending to startup tech firms.