August 18, 1999

Rep. Thurman Announces Federal Grant for Gainesville Technology Business Advocates Continued Support of Federal Advanced Technology Program

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Washington, D.C. - Rep. Karen Thurman says she's pleased to announce the allocation of an additional $460,000 in federal funds to support the operation of a local Gainesville company, and she says she plans to keep up the pressure this session in Congress to ensure more companies receive similar financial help. Rep. Thurman says the Advanced Technology Program operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce is a direct benefit to the 5th Congressional District, where local companies and the University of Florida have received grants under the program. Since 1990, the Advanced Technology Program has provided federal funding to businesses on a cost-sharing basis to help fund the development of promising new technology. With the latest allocation of $460,000, the Gainesville company called The Athena Group has received a total of $1.85 million under the program. But Rep. Thurman says the program could be in jeopardy. "I'll do my best to make sure my colleagues in the House understand the importance of the Advanced Technology Program," Rep. Thurman said. "The federal funds provide the capital many businesses need to get started. These seed funds also provide a partnership between government and industry in support of the development of technological advancements that in the end could become a great benefit to the entire country." The Gainesville company is one of a handful of companies in Florida receiving funds through the very competitive program. The Athena Group received $1.4 million under the program in the last two years and received notification this week of an additional $460,236 for the 1999-2000 fiscal year. Rep. Thurman says she's concerned about the future of the program because the House appropriations bill for FY2000 for the Commerce Department and other branches of government eliminated funding for the Advanced Technology Program. She says she voted against the bill because of the many steep cuts included in the funding package. But Rep. Thurman says she's encouraged the Senate version of the appropriations bill passed with $226 million for the program. She plans to work to make sure funding for the program is included in the overall conference report, which still must go to a final vote in the House and the Senate. The Athena Group in Gainesville develops technology used to make digital signal processing chips. The chips are used to run communications equipment, consumer electronics, biomedical instruments and military electronic systems. Jon Mellott, Athena's director of ASIC technologies, said the program takes a chance on companies when no one else will. "Without the Advanced Technology Program award, Athena would never have been able to pursue the development of its advanced digital signal processing technology. Traditional funding sources such as venture capital don't deal with high risk, long-term outlook technologies. Traditional funding sources also don't consider the national economic benefits of a technology. Athena's technology could have a multi-billion dollar impact on the U.S. economy." For more information about the Advanced Technology Program, please call Rep. Thurman's office, or Michael Baum, in the public and business affairs office at the National Institute of Standards and Technology which oversees the program at (301) 975-2763, or Mellott at the Athena Group at (352) 371-2567 ext. 108.