FILE - Illinois State Capitol

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois.

Illinois lawmakers advanced two measures to expand the state’s venture capital investment program.

Both bills passed unanimously Thursday in the Senate Commerce and Economic Development Committee. 

Senate Bill 2946 would expand the Illinois Technology Development Fund to allow the treasurer’s office to invest in more than just technology equipment as it currently does.

“This would allow us to expand that authority to support innovation and entrepreneurs throughout the state,” said Rodrigo Garcia, chief investment officer for the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office. 

The fund isn’t allowed to directly invest in a business, rather a venture capital firm that would then invest in those businesses.

“By expanding the grants, the fund will help to spur on technology businesses and keep them in the state,” said state Sen. Suzy Glowiak-Hilton, D-Western Springs, who is also a mechanical engineer by trade.

Venture capital investment is considered to be riskier than traditional stocks or bonds. Each of the funds would only represent five percent of the treasurer’s total portfolio, respectively. Garcia said the funds invested have returned 14 percent. 

The funds can invest up to $100 million in one venture capital firm, but has not invested more than $15 million. Garcia said they’re investing roughly $100 million annually. 

The initial program began in 2004.

Senate Bill 3028, if enacted, would allow the treasurer’s office to transfer up to five percent of its investment portfolio into an account devoted to spur economic growth in the state via infrastructure investments, rather than technological companies. The investments would go to venture capital firms that specialize in property procurement and development in the state. 

Garcia said the bill was modeled after the technology investment program. 

Treasurer Michael Frerichs said he was pleased to see the bills advance.

“I am pleased that both bills passed the Senate committee with unanimous, bi-partisan support,” Frerichs said. “In these polarized times, I am glad that we can come together to support innovative ways to improve the state’s investments.”

His office said the improvements to the Technology Development Act will allow the State Treasurer to harness the state’s venture capital investments to benefit entrepreneurs across Illinois, providing assistance to small business incubators, accelerators, and other parts of the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The Infrastructure Development Act will allow the State Treasurer to invest alongside the private sector in transportation, utilities, renewable energy, or other real assets, his office said.

The funds in question are from the state’s investment portfolio, not from the state budget.

Both bills now await a vote on the Senate Floor.

Staff Reporter

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois and Arizona government and statewide issues for The Center Square. He has produced radio shows for stations in Central Illinois and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.