One of the most important accomplishments of the recently concluded 2011 legislative session was the passage of several bills focused on creating new momentum for developing and attracting businesses rooted in technology and innovation.
The Legislature gave unanimous support to four proposals that I proposed as part of our Talent & Innovation Initiative. This package -- including the Nebraska Internship program, the Business Innovation Act, the Site & Building Development Fund, and the Angel Investment Tax Credit -- was developed based on recommendations made in a comprehensive review of Nebraska's economic climate. The 2010 Battelle study focused on developing more highly-specialized career and business opportunities in our state through investments in technology and innovation.
The Nebraska Internship program creates new internship opportunities for 500 to 750 college and university students to gain job experience working with companies across the state. Funded with $1.5 million a year in job training funds, awards will be made to companies creating new internships on a first-come, first-serve basis. The program went into effect on June 1.
Nebraska is the only state in the nation with a program like this. By partnering with Nebraska businesses, we want to connect students with opportunities to gain work experience, particularly in high-skill sectors, to help retain more students after graduation.
The Business Innovation Act provides funding to help businesses develop new technologies that lead to quality job opportunities across our state. Competitive grants will provide funding and technical assistance for research at Nebraska institutions, new product development and testing, and help expand small business and entrepreneur outreach efforts.
A new Site & Building Development fund will help increase industrial and commercial sites available and ready for business development. Most businesses are looking for sites that can be customized to fit their needs, rather than properties where they are starting from scratch. Communities will match state funding, with a focus on securing land and helping with infrastructure costs. Forty percent of the funding is set aside for projects in non-metro areas.
Finally, creating an Angel Investment Tax Credit encourages investment in high-tech and other startup Nebraska enterprises by helping attract private funding starting with the current tax year. Eligible small businesses must have fewer than 25 employees. Many states offer similar tax credits and what sets Nebraska's apart is that it is refundable and available to a wide range of industries. That combination makes Nebraska's Angel Investment Tax Credit one of the most competitive in the nation.
The Nebraska Department of Economic Development is preparing to implement these programs. Applications for companies creating internship opportunities are available now. Grants and funding opportunities to stimulate business innovation and development of commercial and industrial sites will be rolled out over the next several months.
The Talent & Innovation Initiative is about making investments today that will develop new career opportunities in innovative and technologically-advanced sectors. It puts a laser-like focus on growing Nebraska's innovation economy. With this initiative, Nebraska has a strong and coordinated strategy in place to advance business recruitment and development.