From The Gainesville Sun - By Michael Stone
The Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce is organizing a volunteer committee to help watch and influence legislation in an effort to better the local business climate.
The committee, dubbed the Innovation Policy Group, will focus on law as it pertains to “innovation,” but that word is being approached in a broad sense, said Kamal Latham, the Chamber's vice president of public policy.
“Innovation certainly has a significant technology component to it,” he said, “but we have not categorically ruled out other industries or areas. … We don't have any limits right now.”
A main purpose for the group will be to provide “counsel and advice to the Chamber on innovation-related policy issues” that can help grow innovation companies, Latham said. The Policy Group will focus on legislation at all levels of government — as long as it somehow affects Gainesville-area businesses, Latham said.
Latham gave an example of Gainesville city commissioners working to better downtown, targeted because it is a hotspot for young, innovative entrepreneurs.
“We have a great downtown area,” he said, “but how can we help to strengthen it?”
At the state level, Latham noted the Legislature's seed capital program, which, in addition to a private match, contributes money to start new companies.
Florida's seed allocations are “considerably less” than other states, Latham said.
“Every dollar that goes in on an investment for helping to launch a company has a multiplier effect in terms of the value that it creates,” he said.
An example of a federal issue is visas for international students who might have to leave the U.S. soon after graduation. He said such laws can make it “very challenging if not impossible” for international University of Florida students to launch companies.
The group will be chaired by David Day, UF's director of technology licensing, and monthly meetings will start in April.
The Chamber is still welcoming interest from potential members. For information, contact Latham at Kamal@GainesvilleChamber.com.
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