By Tina Hoffman, Iowa Economic Development Authority

ISU_StartUp01 (3)The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) board awarded direct financial assistance and tax benefits to two companies for job creation and expansion projects. These awards will assist in the creation of 954 jobs will result in nearly $244 million in new capital investment for the state. The board also approved awards for six entrepreneurial assistance providers.

The board approved assistance for planned or proposed projects located in Algona, Wright County, Ames, Des Moines, Mason City, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs and Iowa City.

Algona manufacturer set to construct new facility
KOFAB, a Division of Precision, Inc. (formerly Kossuth Fabricators, Inc.), was founded in 1977 and was purchased by Precision, Inc. in 2014.  KOFAB operates two facilities in Algona which manufacture products specifically designed to move or handle food products.  These products include conveyor systems, dumpers, lifts, and the components related to these products.  The company is planning to construct a new building to increase capacity to support the sales growth at this location.   The board awarded KOFAB $250,000 in direct financial assistance as well as tax benefits from the High Quality Jobs program (HQJP) for this $4.7 million capital investment, which will be expended over a three-year period.  The project is expected to create 32 jobs, of which 27 are incented at or above the hourly qualifying wage of $19.15.

Pork processor proposes building in Wright County
Prestage Farms, Inc. is a 33-year-old “top 5” producer of swine and turkeys with multiple U.S. locations including Iowa. Since 2003, Prestage Farms has operated swine finishing facilities in Iowa. The company has formed a new entity, Prestage Foods of Iowa, LLC, to build a state-of-the-art pork processing facility in Wright County. The project plant represents a $239 million capital investment. In a special board session that was held yesterday, the company was awarded tax benefits via HQJP for this project and is expected to create 922 jobs, of which 332 are incented at a qualifying wage of $15.54 per hour.

Awards made to six entrepreneurial assistance providers

In 2015, the Iowa Legislature approved legislation to create the Entrepreneurial Investment Awards program (EIA).  The program stipulates the provision of financial assistance to service providers that offer technical and financial assistance to entrepreneurs and start-up companies seeking to create, locate or expand a business in Iowa.   The maximum amount that the IEDA board will award for FY17 is $1 million.  In addition, the board will award no more than $200,000 to any one service provider per fiscal year.  The award is in the form of a grant and award recommendations for this program are made by the Technology Commercialization Committee (TCC) to the IEDA board for approval.

Iowa State University’s (ISU) StartUp Factory has been developed to better coordinate the efforts of the various entrepreneurial initiatives and centers on ISU’s Ames campus.  The new model employed by StartUp Factory brings together critical components for moving technology from the lab to the marketplace, whether it be in the form of startups or licensed technologies. It also includes an educational component that is intended to help foster a stronger and more pervasive culture of innovation across campus.  The board awarded ISU Research Park a $200,000 grant from the EIA program for this initiative.

Square One DSM is a startup business accelerator focused on growing regional and national entrepreneurial businesses. Formed in 2007 by the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the mission of Square One DSM (formerly the Business Innovation Zone or BIZ) is to mentor, connect, and enhance the potential for success for entrepreneurs. To accomplish this, Square One DSM assists entrepreneurs with idea development, business model development, strategy and market validation, acquiring capital, and financial and business plans.  Square One DSM was awarded a $200,000 grant from the EIA program for their activities.

Mason City’s North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC) emphasizes a virtual rural accelerator model.  NIACC JPEC has specific, national-level expertise in serving lower population density rural areas and small cities. “Virtual” in this use means serving entrepreneurs in their place of business or community rather than focusing services in a brick and mortar incubator. NIACC JPEC envisions offering four new and two greatly expanded programs over a larger region with an added position. The net effect will extend the effective geographic reach of the Virtual Rural Accelerator and the volume of high-intensity clients served on an annual basis.  NIACC JPEC received a $100,000 grant through the EIA program to assist existing rural businesses with opportunities to pursue rapid growth through technology or technology-enabled new markets.

Cedar Rapids-based New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative (NewBoCo) is a nonprofit organization with a service model that consists of several interconnected parts, including: 90-day accelerator program, co-working space and mentoring program. NewBoCo received a $75,000 EIA program grant to hire a full-time engineering lead and offer onsite technical assistance and expertise with electrical engineering and 3D printing to assist startups.

The Council Bluffs Area Chamber of Commerce implemented an Entrepreneur Council in February 2016, which resulted in the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) conducting an entrepreneurial needs assessment of Council Bluffs area. Though not completed, the UNI study has already identified on key area primed for major growth – the food industry. The board awarded the Council Bluffs Chamber a $200,000 EIA program grant to help establish The Kitchen Council, a food incubator supporting entrepreneurs in the food industry.

The Iowa City Area Development (ICAD) Group has partnered with the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC) at the University of Iowa to jointly contribute funding towards the creation of a formalized startup mentorship program. Currently both JPEC and the ICAD Group provide a cadre of services to support the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. The gap in services they are seeking to fill is to ensure that there is a robust pool of capable mentors for startups and to build relationships with high net worth individuals who meet SEC investment criteria to educate and encourage to become Angel Investors. The board awarded ICAD a $25,000 grant via the EIA program to be used for hiring one individual who would be dedicated to accomplishing this goal.