CT Launches Entrepreneur Learner’s Permit to Cut Start-Up Fees

Connecticut’s Entrepreneur Learner’s Permit program, operated by CTNext, is underway.  The two-year pilot initiative, which reimburses first-time entrepreneurs for filing, licensing, and permitting fees associated with starting a business, is aimed at giving certain businesses a boost on the bottom line. A wholly-owned subsidiary of Connecticut Innovations, CTNext is Connecticut’s innovation ecosystem, designed to build a more robust community of entrepreneurs and accelerate early-stage growth by providing access to talent, space, industry expertise, services, skill development, and capital to foster innovation and create jobs in Connecticut.ctnext-logo

The Entrepreneur Learner’s Permit program, signed into law earlier this year, allows owners and executives of businesses in the information technology, bioscience, and green technology industries to receive reimbursement up to $1,500 for state and municipal business startup fees.

The Entrepreneur Learner’s Permit legislation sets a funding cap of $500,000 in Fiscal Years 2017 and 2018, equaling $1 million for reimbursable fees for entrepreneurs in the state.

Eligibility in the three industries has been defined by CTNext as the program gets started this month:ELP-CT

Bioscience: Defined as the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, medicines, medical equipment, or medical devices and analytical laboratory instruments, operating medical or diagnostic testing laboratories, or conducting pure research and development in life sciences.

Information Technology: Defined as software publishing, motion picture and video production, teleproduction and post-production services, telecommunications, data processing, hosting and related services, custom computer programming services, computer system design, computer facilities management services, other computer related services and computer training.

Green Technology: Defined as the production, manufacture, design, research or development of clean energy, green buildings, smart grid, high-efficiency transportation vehicles and alternative fuels, environmental products, environmental remediation and pollution prevention.

Glendowlyn Thames, director of Small Business Innovation and CTNext at Connecticut Innovations, recently told Hartford Business Journal that “Starting and running a business in its earliest stages can be a massive undertaking, no matter the location. This benefit does more than cover fees — it is another step the state has taken to help create a more active ecosystem and assist entrepreneurs when they need it most. Entrepreneurs scrutinize every cost, so while the fees may not deter a company from coming to Connecticut, removing those fees can certainly serve as a benefit.”

The Connecticut Business and Industry Association has described the program as “a pro-small business, solid stepping stone toward paving the way for Connecticut to become a much more business friendly state.”  The legislation establishing the program was authored by State Rep. Caroline Simmons-D-144 and State Sen. Scott Frantz-R-36, the Stamford Advocate reported.CTI_Logo

“Our vision is to attract new businesses to Connecticut and to encourage entrepreneurship and job growth in our state,” Simmons told the Advocate. “This is a pro-business, bi-partisan bill that will benefit Connecticut's economy.”

The legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis (OFA) estimated the program will cost the state $27 million annually in lost fee revenue; other agencies like transportation and banking will lose $7 million annually. OFA assumes 25,000 startups launch in Connecticut every year.

CTNext, described as Connecticut’s innovation ecosystem, is tasked under revisions to the state’s economic development structure approved by the state legislature to “equip startups and entrepreneurs with resources, guidance and networks to accelerate growth and success.” CTNext launched in 2012, and has worked with more than 1,100 companies.

Companies need to certify that they are eligible for the Entrepreneur Learner’s Permit program, and after filling out a very brief online application, a “CTNext team member will reach out to you to collect receipts for reimbursement.”  At the end of the two-year program, CT Innovations is to evaluate its effectiveness and make a recommendation to the legislature regarding whether it should be continued, concluded, or revised.