One item from Gov. Butch Otter’s State of the State wish list is closer to becoming a reality.
Otter’s Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM) initiative, a proposal to jump-start tech innovation in the state, cleared the Idaho House on a 65-2 vote Monday.
Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, the floor sponsor of the bill, said the legislation will pair the private and public sectors for the public good. “This legislation was not created in a vacuum,” Lake said.
The plan was modeled after successful programs in other states, including Utah’s USTARS initiative. “The concept is not new,” Lake said, adding that it has brought jobs and innovations to areas where it’s been implemented.
The total cost of the program is expected to be around $5 million, but Lake’s bill doesn’t appropriate the funds. If the initial bill clears the Senate and is signed by Otter, the budget committee will appropriate the funds for the program.
Of the potential money, $950,000 will fund grants for public-private project investments, $2 million will go to the Center for Advanced Energy Studies and another $2 million will pay for research at Idaho colleges and universities.
Lake warned lawmakers of the need to be patient when looking for proof of positive results. “This is not something that you can do today and expect results tomorrow,” Lake said. “This is something that will have a long-term effect.”
Rep. Max Black, R-Boise, backed the idea as a proven method to create jobs. “It has been well-tried in other states,” Black said. “I think we have the personnel in the Department of Commerce to develop this and develop some economic growth in the state.”
Democrat Bill Killen, D-Boise, also threw his support behind the plan. “I wish we had it earlier, but better later than never,” Killen lamented.
The measure was opposed by Rep. Lenore Hardy Barrett, R-Challis, and Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, though neither explained their dissent.
The plan now moves to the Idaho Senate for hearings.