RALEIGH, N.C. –A bill that expands a state matching program for federal grants and another bill that would provide a tax break for startup research and development companies have been introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly.

The bills are backed by several entrepreneurial organizations in the state. Governor Mike Easley called for the legislation in his proposal.

The grant program would help N.C. firms that receive Small Business Innovation Research or Small Business Technology Transfer grant from the federal government to receive a matching award up to $100,000. The bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator Linda Garrou, a Democrat from Winston-Salem.

The tax break involves the waiving of the state’s sales tax on equipment purchased by non-manufacturing companies. Senator David Hoyle introduced the bill. Hoyle is a Democrat from Gastonia.

Representative Pryor Gibson introduced similar bills in the House. Gibson is a Democrat from Wadesboro.

The bills from Garrou and Gibson also seek $250,000 to fund a study of innovation-based entrepreneurial companies and their impact on the state’s economy. The study would be conducted by the North Carolina Board of Science and Technology, which has supported the matching grant programs.

“We are extremely pleased to have the support of these very influential legislators,” said Sam Taylor, president of the North Carolina Entrepreneurial Association. “Innovation-based entrepreneurial companies can play a huge role in the growth of our state by leading the commercialization of new technologies. This legislation recognizes those contributions.”

The North Carolina Technology Association, the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, the Piedmont Triad Entrepreneurial Network, the Business & Innovation Growth Council of Charlotte, and AdvantageWest — North Carolina all support the legislation.