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State audit says it's too early to measure success of growth fund
An effort to use Florida pension funds to help spur the creation of high-tech industries in the state has yielded 186 jobs so far, a new audit reports.
But both state auditors and managers behind the Florida Growth Fund as it is called insist that is still way too early to measure the success of the $250 million effort that began in June 2009.
State lawmakers authorized the creation of the fund back in 2008, which invests state and local pension funds in technology and high-growth businesses with a significant presence in the state. Gov. Charlie Crist hailed the bill, which also allowed the pension fund to increase its use of alternative investments, by holding a ceremonial bill signing on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
A report by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability released this week says that the fund -- which is overseen by the State Board of Administration -- has so far invested $73 million in 11 companies.
Seven of the investments have been done in partnership with private equity firms, while four of the investments are in private equity funds that are investing in companies. Some of those receiving money include a Longwood-based waste management company and a Coral Gables aircraft parts and leasing business.
The SBA has paid Hamilton Lane, a Philadelphia-based investment company which has offices in Fort Lauderdale, more than $2.7 million since the fund's inception to manage it.
The audit says that 186 jobs have materialized because of the investments including jobs at the waste management firm and a Tampa Bay digital media company. But the audit also notes that the SBA does not expect to get "competitive return" on its investments until at least eight or 10 years.
Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate and the sponsor the bill that created the fund, said it would be misleading to focus on the number of jobs creating by the fund. He said it the fund is not an economic development tool right now but a venture capital fund that is geared toward getting investment returns over a lengthy period.
"These take years and years to materialize," Ring said.
But Crist when he signed the bill predicted that the "infusion of investment capital will enhance the state's capacity for innovation, economic growth and higher paying jobs for Floridians."