The man who’ll run the huge new state economic development fund says the grants to businesses won’t be as large as some might think. In each of the next two years, Department of Economic Development director Michael Blouin will have 64 million dollars to hand out to lure life science, biotech and financial services companies to expand or locate in Iowa. Blouin says that’s more money than the department has ever had to entice companies and more money than he ever dreamed was possible. Blouin says the businesses that’ll get the awards will have a track record of success, just as those who’ve qualified in the past for state grants. Blouin expects a bit of a bidding war as businesses seek multimillion dollar grants.Blouin says there may be a few large ones, but the bulk of the grants “won’t be that big” and will be under a million dollars. Legislators created several commissions, made up of folks from the private sector, to make decisions about which companies will or won’t get the money, and how much the grants will be. Blouin says it’s “very bureaucratic.” Blouin says it’s laden with boards and committees and reports. He says his goal is to absorb that bureaucracy inside the Department of Economic Development so it’s “seamless” and the companies don’t see the bureaucracy. Blouin expects the 11-member board to be appointed by mid-July. Blouin’s writing some temporary “fast track” rules for running the program.Blouin hopes the temporary rules are in place by mid-August, and be in business in the second half of August. Blouin says the Governor’s item vetoes in the bill that created the new “Iowa Values” fund will not effect the program and he doesn’t expect legislators unhappy with the Governor’s item veto of income tax cuts to be able to win a court injunction to put the program on hold. Blouin says it’ll be a couple of months before the state will be able to hand out any of the money, and he says that’s plenty of time for the legal wrinkles to “shake out.” Blouin made his comments during taping of an Iowa Public TV program that airs tonight at 6:30.
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