Chamber group seeks to guide innovation-related legislation

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

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Virginia MacKoul

Virginia is a graduate from the University of Florida's College of Design Construction and Planning with a degree in Sustainability and the Built Environment, and a minor in Urban Regional Planning. Virginia joined the Front Street team in 2011, as an intern. Upon graduation, Virginia joined the Front Street team full-time as the Director of Client Services. Ms. MacKoul’s addition furthers Front Street’s continued growth and expansion within Gainesville and other North Central Florida markets. She was promoted to Director of Marketing in 2014 and now manages the firm’s team of interns and oversees all marketing and branding activity. Virginia was born in Boston and moved to Lee County, Florida in 1997. Virginia graduated her high school's International Baccalaureate program and started at the University of Florida with a focus on Architecture. Virginia shares Front Street's passion of giving back to the community and those in need. Virginia's hobbies include photography, cooking, football, movies, music, and spending time with her dog, Brinkley.

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