A long-stalled Georgia program that uses government dollars to attract venture funding for homegrown startup firms is showing signs of life.
The Invest Georgia initiative, a favorite of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and the Metro Atlanta Chamber, this week selected an investment consultant to manage the $10 million in state funds flowing through its coffers.
Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston.
The program’s board tapped LCG Associates for a one-year contract out of a pool of three finalists. Charles Thompson, an Invest Georgia board member, said the firm’s “purposeful approach” helped it win the business.
The initiative was launched in 2013 by supporters who hoped that ponying up state dollars could attract enough venture capital to help transform Georgia into a tech hub.
But lawmakers didn’t allocate money to fund the program the first year, and the $10 million it had in the bank this year came only after Gov. Nathan Deal shifted money from the higher education system for the program. Meanwhile, leaders for months delayed naming the members of the panel that would oversee how that money is spent.
Another blow was struck to the program when Deal vetoed a controversial proposal that would have authorized the program to sell up to $55 million in insurance tax credits. But the hiring of the adviser means that the initial $10 million tranche can now be invested.
“I’m encouraged. It took a little time, but now it’s speeding up,” said Knox Massey, Invest Georgia’s executive director. “We’re going through the process to make sure we’re doing everything we can to build out the platform to ensure it’s more efficient when we receive additional funding.”
The program’s boosters want the publicly-backed venture to eventually pump $100 million into young businesses to grow jobs and keep local entrepreneurs from leaving – meaning they will be lobbying lawmakers to dole out another $90 million over the next few years.
“We have to understand the reality – with budgets and other demands – but we still want to meet that timeline,” he said.