Blogging live from the Forever Wired Conference at Clarkson University, where a strong turnout of 250 telecommuters, mobile workers, educators and advocates for the region’s economy and technology have gathered to figure out how to use the Internet to develop North Country businesses.
State comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli kicked the conference off with a keynote address on the In-State Private Equity Investment Program. His message in brief: the state is acting as venture capitalist, investing in innovative businesses and new technologies.
DiNapoli says the goals of the program are to diversify the state pension fund portfolio and provide returns to the one million people who depend on it; the parallel objectives are to encourage economic growth in New York and create jobs. He credited state investments with creating 2,700 jobs in the state since the program began in 2007, and he says returns have been strong. So far the fund has invested $1 billion, financing 27 companies with an average return of 30 percent. DiNapoli called it a “small success story” in an otherwise stressed state economy and budget. Seventeen investment managers decide which companies to entrust with the pension fund’s money, and about $500 million is available for investment right now.
In the North Country, the the Common Retirement Fund (CRF) invested $2.5 million in ZeroPoint Clean Tech, based in Potsdam, a renewable energy company providing biomass-to-energy and water treatment technologies; $22.5 billion in Navilyst Medical’s acquisition of Boston Scientific Corporation’s catheter manufacturing business, much of it based in Glens Falls; and $6.9 million in Climax Manufacturing Company, of Lowville, manufacturers of folding cartons and recycled paperboards.
Most of the investments around the state similarly went to larger businesses that employ a lot of people, but DiNapoli says the fund is open to entrepreneurial ideas and that he realizes that the economy has made it tough lately for start-ups to access private capital.
“If you are prepared to make a commitment to New York and can make a compelling case for our investment, we’ll make a commitment to you and your business,” the comptroller said. “My message is a simple one: as an investor I am betting on New York.”
John Warren is attending a session on “What are the basic business concepts that will lead to my success” and says he’ll file some thoughts later this afternoon.