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Florida Seeks to Grow High Tech Businesses

June 19th, 2009 by Mike Vasilinda

State lawmakers authorized the state pension fund to use up to two billion dollars for investment in companies here in Florida or ready to move here. The bill was enacted in 2008,and as Mike Vasilinda tells us the first 250 million dollars is ready to be invested in companies who will create and attract high tech jobs.

The sights are being set high. The 250 million will be invested in companies who build things like this robotic dog, this unmanned helicopter, or this unmanned aircraft with flexible wings. The aircraft is the direct result of technology developed by the University of Florida.

“This plane is smart,” Bryan DeFrota with Priroia Robotics said. “It Flies and it’s capable of seeing obstacles, it’s capable of autonomously tracking targets.”

State officials announced the fund Friday morning…just an hour before new numbers showed unemployment increasing. Attorney General Bill McCollum says new job creation wont be immediate.

“As far as larger numbers of jobs are concerned, they’re going to be seen for Florida as these young companies grow over the next 3, 4, 5,10 years,” McCollum said.

To make sure the politics don’t influence who gets the cash, the state’s hired a respected money manager to handle the fund.

The pension fund is also not looking to be a charity…but to make money.

“We seek a premium return on investments of this nature,” Ash Williams with the state board of administration said. “They’re less liquid, and for that reason as an investor we want to get paid more to make those investments. I think that’s what our beneficiaries deserve and expect.”

Lawmakers have authorized up to one and a half percent or abo two billion dollars of the pension fund for Florida investment.

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