Oregon VC Bill Heads for Governor's Mansion

July 11, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Oregon entrepreneurs are a step closer to a substantial shot in the arm, courtesy of state lawmakers and the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS).

That’s because the state House of Representatives unanimously okayed HB 3613, which directs that officials try to place $100 million in PERS assets in Oregon venture capital funds during the next 4 ½ years, the Portland Oregonian reported. However, the bill doesn’t guarantee every penny will go to in-state business start-ups.

Governor Ted Kulongoski intends to sign the bill into law, spokeswoman Mary Ellen Glynn told the newspaper.”

A lot of the small startups and other emerging companies end up leaving Oregon because there’s not a venture capital market here,” Representative Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland), sponsor of the bill, which had passed the Senate on Tuesday, told the Oregonian. “The Oregon Investment Council should look at Oregon emerging industries as a first step when looking to invest in venture capital.”

The bill instructs officials to have “at least $100 million in venture capital investments in Oregon unless, under the circumstances, it is not prudent to do so.”

State Treasurer Randall Edwards said he likes the fact that the bill doesn’t mandate the investments. The state pension fund already invests less than 1% of its $36.5 billion in venture capital, but has recently decided to increase that amount.

“We have a policy to look in Oregon,” Edwards told the Oregonian. “This bill just sharpens that focus.”

PERS faced a long-term shortfall of more than $16 billion this year, and the Legislature has made several changes to reduce the system’s costs. The system includes retirement accounts for about 300,000 current and former employees of state and local governments.

Representative Patti Smith, chairwoman of the House Trade and Economic Development Committee, said the venture capital bill could create 15,000 Oregon jobs, given the high percentage of small businesses in the state.

“There’s exceptional growth potential,” said Smith, (R-Corbett).