State officials said Friday that its tax credit program aimed at spurring investors to fund Minnesota start-ups raised $63.1 million last year for local companies, more than double the amount invested in 2010.
Incentives from the Minnesota Angel Tax Credit Program led to funding for 113 budding firms. The program, which started in the summer of 2010, seeks to help local start-ups become well-established names, with the broader goal of creating jobs in the state.
"If one or two of those [113 firms] in 20 years is a Medtronic or 3M, with tens of thousands of employees, I think the program will be a success," said Jeff Nelson, the program's coordinator.
As a result of the $63.1 million in funding, investors received nearly $15.8 million in tax credits. The number of jobs created last year won't be released until March.
In 2010, the state gave $7 million in tax credits to investors, but that only resulted in 47 jobs at the start-ups that received funding, according a report released last March. The hope is that the incentives will eventually help create thousands of jobs.
Still, supporters of the program said the credits have helped Minnesota start-ups that have struggled to raise money in a sluggish economy. Many investors are skeptical of start-ups and would rather fund mature firms that have solidified their strategies and product lines. Venture capital investments in the state reached their lowest level in 15 years in 2010.
Robert Nicholson, chief financial officer of Plymouth-based ActiFi Inc., said his software firm would not have received as much funding without the tax credits. ActiFi raised $25,000 under the program last year.
"A program like this definitely helps, because it reduces the risk or amount of money it takes to invest in a company," Nicholson said.
Medical device and equipment firms, followed by software businesses, were the top company categories to get funding. Last year, 102 of the companies that received money under the program were from the Twin Cities area, and 11 were from outstate Minnesota.
Out-of-state investors represented 29 percent of the investors who funded Minnesota start-ups last year.
Whether the program will keep up its investment pace remains unclear. This year, the program has only $12 million in tax credits to allocate to investors, compared with $16 million last year. Trade association LifeScience Alley said it plans to lobby the state to increase that amount to $25 million in 2012. A bill has also been introduced in the Legislature by Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina, and others to raise the amount of credits to $20 million.
"We're going to run out of money for that, and it's just at a time when momentum is building," said Dale Wahlstrom, CEO of LifeScience Alley.
Wendy Lee • 612-673-1712