By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2014, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
The State Science & Technology Institute (SSTI), the national nonprofit organization that focuses on improving state and regional economies through science, technology, and innovation, recently chose Oklahoma for its 2015 annual Conference.
The meeting will bring more than 250 individuals from 40 states to Oklahoma to gain information and share best practices about technology-based economic development.
The institute is a great source of information about what states are doing to create jobs and wealth through innovation. At the close of the recent cycle of legislative sessions around the country, the institute published a special report examining innovation legislation from states — covering steps that policymakers and state executives are taking to build stronger, more innovative economies.
States across the country are increasing access to investment capital, as well as investing in long-term research capacity, technology commercialization, and workforce and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) initiatives.
Multiple states including Colorado and Minnesota passed or expanded angel tax credits.
Florida ($80 million budgeted) and Oregon ($200 million in bond funding) passed bills that dedicate funds to elevate each state’s status in cancer care and research. New York budgeted $55 million for the New York Genomic Medicine Network, which seeks to attract and grow companies focused on genetics, and Washington’s governor vetoed a $20 million cut in funding to the state’s Life Sciences Discovery Fund sustaining proof-of-concept and entrepreneurial grant programs.
When it comes to STEM, Louisiana ($40 million), Wisconsin ($35 million), and Utah ($20 million) budgeted large sums toward workforce training with a STEM focus. Other states set up aggressive scholarship and student loan forgiveness programs for students and teachers in STEM.
And in Ohio, Ohio Third Frontier, a $1.6 billion bellwether bond-based initiative that provides funding to Ohio technology-based companies, universities, and other nonprofit research institutions to create technology-based business and jobs, reported that the state’s expenditure of $681 million so far has generated $6.6 billion of economic activity, more than 41,300 jobs and $2.4 billion in employee wages and benefits, representing about a $10 return on every dollar of the state’s investment.
In our own state, we have seen our cities invest with substantial positive results — the nationally recognized Metropolitan Areas Programs (MAPs) in Oklahoma City, and the redevelopment of downtown Tulsa.
But instead of new statewide investment and initiatives to support entrepreneurial companies like we’re seeing in other states, Oklahoma has cut funding to its economic development and commercialization efforts.
We have so many advantages for entrepreneurs — low cost of living, excellent talent from our colleges and universities, and amazing research.
Instead of reducing our support for these resources which have been proven repeatedly to create jobs and wealth in other states, we could be stepping up our game. It’s time to invest in Oklahoma!
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.