Seeking to tap into the expertise and innovation of the private sector, Assemblyman Ian Calderon is renewing his bid to create a program that places successful entrepreneurs at state agencies.
Calderon, D-Whittier, this month introduced legislation that would establish an Entrepreneur-in-Residence program to recruit as many as 10 individuals a year to state government who have successfully developed, invented or created a product and brought the product to the marketplace.
“They are natural problem solvers. They create business, they create products and they create solutions and bring it to market,” Calderon told Techwire in a phone interview.
Long popular in the tech sector and used by venture capital firms to nurture startup companies, EIR programs have become increasingly popular across universities and government. Today, the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, the state of Ohio, and a number of federal agencies are drawing upon the skills of proven business leaders.
AB 86 is Calderon’s third attempt to establish a state EIR program whereby entrepreneurs would advise state agency heads about how to improve processes and communication in a bid to better meet the needs of small businesses and entrepreneurs. Those individuals would also make recommendations about how to streamline, eliminate or modify potentially inefficient or duplicative activities, processes and programs.
That kind of scrutiny is sorely needed at state agencies, Calderon said, who as a former staffer at the Capitol often helped frustrated Californians get access to essential state services — an often time-consuming task for those who have questions about their benefits, for example.
“This is an opportunity to help the Legislature really understand where inefficiencies are so we can fix it,” said Calderon, who said he has consulted with private-sector leaders who want to volunteer their time to such a cause.
Calderon’s bill would mandate these entrepreneurs-in-residence be volunteers and dedicate at least 16 hours a week to the job. The measure also includes a conflict-of-interest provision intended to ensure no appointee would have existing business before the state agency where he or she is placed.
Calderon’s previous bills never made it past the Senate Appropriations Committee in 2014 and 2016, a tactical decision by the Democrat as he worked to gain Gov. Jerry Brown’s support. This year, Calderon said he believes his idea for an entrepreneur-in-residence program has found an appropriate home under the oversight of the Government Operations Agency to oversee the pilot project.
“In California, we’re really looking for new innovative, creative ways about the way government can work,” Calderon said. “I feel like this is a part of that.”