in Houston, Texas
After $2.75 million boost from Texas taxpayers, Houston bioenergy co. Terrabon files for bankruptcy
Wednesday, Oct 24, 2012, 10:55AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
corn field

From the looks of it your state and federal governments are competing to see which can produce the most technology business failures with your tax money.

Terrabon Inc., a Houston bioenergy company that was able to get up and running with 2.75 million tax dollars scrounged up in 2010 from the state Emerging Technology Fund, has filed for bankruptcy, Associated Press is reporting today.

Terrabon is the fourth and biggest tanking - the second in just four months - since the state began betting with your money on technology-based startups in 2006, AP says.

The federal government, which counts its technology crapshoots in the hundreds of millions of tax dollars, crapped out again last week when A123 Systems Inc., a manufacturer of electric car batteries, went all Chapter 11 on us.

That’s a $250 million stimulus grant the American public isn’t going to see again. Along with the now infamous Solyndra, Abound Solar, Beacon Power Corp., and EnerDel, the federal government has now helped steer $1.23 billion in tax money into legal liquidation. (Please see this helpful chart of stimulus flops here.)

Terrabon’s death dive brings to $5.25 million the taxpayer investment losses heaped up by the Emerging Technology Fund. In May, NanoTailor Inc. of Austin, went down taking $250,000 with it.

The Emerging Technology Fund has in the past been criticized as a pet project of Gov. Rick Perry’s to assist business people whose political support he has curried. The fund is also a rather expensive way to create jobs in Texas.

The state Auditor was harshly critical of the Governor’s Office in a lengthy report in April 2011 for its lack of monitoring of the fund and for withholding of investment information from the public.

But we’ll leave it to William Aulet, managing director of the entrepreneurship center at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, to state the obvious, as he did for the Boston Globe: “Yes, the government is a bad venture capitalist.”

Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of a corn field by flickr user Dodo-Bird, used via a Creative Commons license.

Thursday, 11/01/2012 - 02:52AM

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