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State officials, lawmakers give Launch Minnesota program A+ on mid-term report card

The Legislature created Launch Minnesota in 2019, and it is set to sunset in 2024.

But far from being in a mid-life crisis or slump, say the program’s managers and Rep. Erin Koegel (DFL-Spring Lake Park), it is thriving and on track for even more success.

Koegel sponsors HF2066, which would make mid-course adjustments to the program to ensure it will be ready to transition from a state-supported program to encourage and support the development of new private sector technologies to being fully supported by the private sector by January 2024.

“Launch Minnesota is focused on growing Minnesota’s innovation economy by accelerating the growth of our start-up ecosystem and attracting top technology talent to the state,” she said.

The House Workforce and Business Development Finance and Policy Committee held over the bill, as amended, Friday for possible omnibus bill inclusion. The companion, SF2083, sponsored by Sen. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Mpls), awaits action by the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy Committee.

Launch Minnesota received $2.5 million in each year of the 2020-21 biennium for “innovation grants” to Minnesota entrepreneurs or start-up businesses to assist with their operating needs, giving priority to businesses or entrepreneurs residing in Greater Minnesota or who are women, veterans, or minority group members.

That money was a one-time appropriation available until the end of fiscal year 2023, said Neela Mollgaard, executive director of the program.

In a presentation to the committee, she gave a financial update on those funds, stating that the program has:

  • awarded $2.8 million in grants to 88 organizations and start-up businesses;
  • given 59% of grants to businesses or entrepreneurs residing in Greater Minnesota or who are women, veterans, or minority group members; and
  • raised $1.8 billion.

The program is managed by a division within the Department of Employment and Economic Development.

“We’ve seen a record number of venture dollars come into the state,” said Commissioner Steve Grove.

He said that although the COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant job losses in the state, it has also spurred an increase in the type of start-up companies that can benefit from Launch Minnesota.

“It’s been a really well-timed program to make sure that those who are using this moment of disruption to try something new have the support they need,” he said.

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