Another budget, another chance to cut money targeting job creators in North Carolina. That’s the takeaway from The Skinny’s viewpoint.
Budget writers in the North Carolina General Assembly have targeted startups and the N.C. Biotechnology Center for cuts in the near-$23 billion spending plan under debate in Raleigh. But the head of the Commerce Department vows to fight cuts in his department, and the Biotech Center ‘s “optimistic” it will escape a slashing.
Rival Senate and House plans contain a variety of cuts targeting either biotech or Commerce Department efforts to support startups and to match federal grants that emerging North Carolina companies earn from the federal government.
The Office of Science, Technology & Innovation (OSTI) is on the chopping block in the Senate budget.
And the One North Carolina Small Business Grant Program faces a reduction to $1 million from $3 million in the House plan. The One NC plan matches federal grants awarded to emerging North Carolina companies. The Senate’s plan includes ZERO dollars.
“[The House plan] is $2,000,000 less than was appropriated in FY 2017. The Senate budget recommends $0 for the program,” a Commerce spokesperson explains. “We won’t know the final outcome until the House and Senate meet in a conference committee.”
And if some spending is approved but the OSTI goes away?
“It’s unclear who would oversee the grant fund if OSTI doesn’t exist,” the spokesperson says, “but Commerce administers numerous grants programs.”
Tony Copeland, the head of Commerce, spoke out strongly against the cuts his operation faces in response to queries from WRAL TechWire.
“Continued funding for the Office of Science, Technology and Innovation (OSTI) and the One North Carolina Small Business Grant Program is a top priority for the NC Dept. of Commerce,” Copeland said.
“The One NC Small Business Grant Program is the only program of its kind in the state that assists start-ups with early stage technology development and commercialization.”
The OSTI represents more than just the three jobs that would be loss if it is eliminated. The office also coordinates the grant program.
As budget negotiations begin to settle differences between the House and Senate, Copeland says he will be engaging on multiple fronts to try to stop the cuts.
“Since we learned about the Senate’s plan to eliminate funding for the Office, we’ve been busy meeting with various Senate and House leaders about the value of the work this office does,” Copeland says.
“We’re optimistic that continued funding for OSTI will be included in the House budget.
“Of course, we know there are more hurdles coming in the budget process and we’ll continue to tell the great story about OSTI and how it impacts companies, job creation, and the economic well-being of all North Carolinians through advancing science, technology and innovation. This work enables North Carolina to be well positioned to compete in the New Economy and it’s the future of our state.”
The House language on the grants reads:
“Provides $1.0 million in nonrecurring funds to the One North Carolina Small Business Fund, which provides matching funds for the Federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program. Funding includes $1.0 million in receipts transferred from the Industrial Development Fund Utility Account (24609-2568) to this fund in FY 2017-18 only. Corresponding items showing the transfer of these funds from the Utility Account to the One North Carolina Small Business Fund (24609-2562) can be found in the special fund pages. The revised net appropriation for the One North Carolina Small Business Fund is $1.0 million in FY 2017-18 only.”
Other economic development programs also are at risk, Copeland points out.
“We’re also very disappointed about some of the recommended programs that the Senate chose not to fund, including NC Ready Sites, NC Online and Manufacturing Site Development Fund, among others,” he says.
” We’re concerned about rural North Carolina and were hoping that we’d receive funding for some very valuable economic development tools that are needed to help rural counties prepare for and attract manufacturing facilities.”
Biotech Center cuts
Meanwhile, budget cutters are taking aim – again – at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. Despite the Center’s record of having helped build one of the nation’s largest life science industry hubs, the dollar wackers just can’t resist making the Center’s investment a pinata for swipes with budget axes.
The Senate plan calls for a 5 percent budget cut. The House budget calls for a repeat of the previous $13 million total, notes a Biotech Center spokesperson..
Doug Edgeton, the Center’s CEO, tells The Skinny he’s hopeful spending will be preserved.
” We remain optimistic that North Carolina will maintain its long-term commitment to the life sciences and that the Biotech Center’s funding will be restored in the final budget.”
For more about the Biotech Center budget, check out page 69 in this document:
For more about the budget, read WRAL.com’s extensive coverage at: