Governor Deval Patrick has just made a massive move to make Massachusetts a global talent draw. In an economic development bill announced Thursday morning, Patrick has proposed legislation to eliminate noncompetes entirely in Massachusetts. He's also taking on the controversial H-1B visa program and proposing new spending for a global Entrepreneur in Residence program that will allow foreign students to stay in Massachusetts to work in startups.
This is a historic time for Massachusetts and will hopefully allow us to shed light on a 200-year law that has prohibited growth in one of our strongest sectors: technology. The legislation won't be easy to pass, and is setting a clear divide between the old guard and the new. Massachusetts tech legends like EMC are in favor of noncompetes, while the fast growing startup community adamantly opposes.
Eliminating noncompetes will allow Massachusetts to adopt the Uniform Trade Secret Act, which will still prevent employees from taking companies' intellectual property but will allow them to move freely between similar companies or even launch competing companies. This move will align us with Washington D.C., California and 44 other states.
"This is a home run for Massachusetts, but our work isn't done yet," Flybridge Partner Jeff Bussgang told BostInno over the phone Wednesday night. And he's right. In order to pass this legislation, we need this tech community to get together and rally support. We'll be posting additional resources that will show you how to get involved today.
The banning on noncompetes will cast a positive outlook on every single job and company here in Massachusetts. As it stands right now, companies try to shackle their employees in order to make them stay. The approach is extremely negative. With noncompetes abolished, companies will be forced to create the best cultures and reward the best employees in order to make them want to stay — a much more positive and sustainable model.
While the upcoming noncompete battle will certainly take most headlines today, the global EIR program is just as massive. This new program will allow qualified international students currently in Massachusetts to stay here after graduation if they are starting or growing a business — something that is borderline impossible with the current H-1B visa program. The Mass Tech Collaborative will place these selected students, who are eligible for H-1B visas but unable to get one due to a federal cap, as EIRs at public and private institutions and will ensure that they continue to contribute to the Massachusetts economy. This program will instantly stop the "brain drain" that Massachusetts annually suffers when students leave after the school year ends.
Other initiatives in Patrick's economic development plan include:
- Extending eligibility for state business incentives to innovative companies that create new jobs regardless of the size of their capital investment.
- Extending the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative’s successful internship and mentoring program, which provides grants to qualifying high tech companies to hire interns, providing students with experience and networking opportunities.
- Codifying the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, a public-private collaborative effort to increase student interest and proficiency in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
- Expanding our international marketing efforts to increase foreign travel, business for tourism-related industries and tax revenue.
- Recapitalizing MassVentures, the state’s public venture capital investment agency.
- Revamp the R&D tax credit program to give companies whose R&D expenditures are rising a larger credit. To offset this increase, companies whose R&D expenditures are flat or declining will receive a relatively smaller credit.
- Invest in the 26 Gateway Cities and in middle skill jobs training programs to ensure that economic opportunities are extended to residents in every corner of the Commonwealth.
- Expand the Infrastructure Investment Inventive program (I-Cubed), which provides innovative financing for infrastructure projects expected to leverage significant economic investment.
And last but certainly not least, the plan calls for the removal of statutory limitations on the number of liquor licenses a local liquor authority can issue in order to give a local community greater control of the number of liquor licenses in their community.
This legislation represents innovation across all sectors, not just business and technology.
All in all, Governor Patrick's plan represents a multi-year, $100 million investment through a combination of capital budget and general fund expenditures.