Invest Georgia a step in right direction

Georgia’s robust entrepreneurial environment has led to the creation of hundreds of new enterprises in the last year alone. The result is the generation of 108,100 new high-paying jobs, a 2.6 percent increase over the previous year. However, even with the many successes, the state still faces a major funding challenge.

The 2015 PWC MoneyTree Report data indicates that Georgia’s technology start-up community lacks ample access to capital. The shortage has led to some prestigious job-producing companies to move out of state to find the funds necessary to expand their business. In fact, more than 25 companies in the past few years have left Georgia for other states. SolidFire, a Georgia-incubated company, relocated to Boulder, Colo., and recently sold for $800 million. Other incubated Georgia companies that left the state include GTronix, Nuventix, Qualtre and NextInput.

These Georgia start-up companies are relocating to other states such as California, New York, Texas, Massachusetts and North Carolina. Certain states such as North Carolina and Florida have seen an outstanding rate of return from state venture capital funding. In fact, the North Carolina Innovation Funds first round of $232 million has already shown a 20 percent internal rate of return. While Florida’s Growth Fund, which has nearly $400 million invested, experienced an internal rate of return of 14.96 percent.

The Invest Georgia program is a state-based fund created to improve venture capital opportunities for Georgia-based businesses and established as a component of Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center. The fund returns 100 percent of investment tax credit dollars back into the Invest Georgia Fund, as well as 80 percent of the investment profit. The Invest Georgia board consists of five members appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House of Representatives. A third-party fund manager reviews, selects and makes recommendations for business investments.

Implementing funds into the Invest Georgia Program is a step in the right direction to help remedy the lack of venture capital available to start-up and growth-stage companies. The program plays a major role in helping the success of the entrepreneur community in Georgia by attracting additional out-of-state institutional investments aligning with the economic development goals of the state.

In 2014, Gov. Nathan Deal recognized the potential of the Invest Georgia Program and allocated $10 million into the fund. In August 2015, LCG Associates was appointed by the Invest Georgia Board as the third-party fiduciary agent. The board chose TTV Capital as its first investment of $3 million into an Atlanta-based financial services venture capital fund at the end of 2015. Through annual public investment reports, the Invest Georgia Board and its decisions reflect a fair and transparent process.

Implementing funds into the Invest Georgia Program is a step in the right direction to help remedy the lack of venture capital available to start-up and growth-stage companies. The program plays a major role in helping the success of the entrepreneur community in Georgia by attracting additional out of state institutional investments aligning with the economic development goals of the state.

This year, Georgia was selected as the No. 1 state in which to conduct business. We all understand that the vast majority of jobs created are through small businesses. Companies such as Airwatch, Sales Loft, Rigor and Vendormate have reinforced that accepted truth. This initial investment into Georgia businesses is a key stepping-stone to begin strengthening the states venture capital ecosystem. Increasing access to venture capital allows Georgia to gain a competitive advantage with its neighboring states including Florida, Tennessee and North Carolina, all of which have similar funding mechanisms.

The Technology Association of Georgia supports funding the Invest Georgia fund, which will increase access to capital for investments into early and growth-stage, job-producing companies within Georgia. The Invest Georgia program has a significant amount of accountability, high level of governance structure and state oversight throughout the life of the program and TAG will continue to support the bill. The funds return to the state quantified by creating jobs, funding businesses, business revenue generated, state taxes generated and positive returns on capital invested.

TAG urges Georgia citizens to contact the governor and district legislators to increase the states funding into programs such as Invest Georgia to support the growing capital needs of our entrepreneurial and startup community.

Tino Mantella is the President/CEO of the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG), the largest technology trade organization in the nation.

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