Economic Development & Entrepreneurship

Each State dollar invested in UNI’s economic development efforts leverages $5 in federal, grants or private sources.

UNI provides economic development assistance throughout all 99 counties.  Since 2000, UNI’s Business and Community Services (BCS) has engaged the entire university community in its outreach efforts, including faculty, staff, students and alumni – all of whom play a critical role in Building a Better Iowa.  Specific areas of service offered by UNI BCS include: entrepreneurship, community and economic development, market research, environmental research, sustainability, advanced manufacturing, metal casting, and additive manufacturing.

The Skilled Worker and Job Creation Fund (SWJCF) appropriation to UNI is for ongoing economic development efforts related to the Metal Casting Center, the Institute for Decision Making, the MyEntre.Net online entrepreneur resources and Advance Iowa (UNI’s economic gardening program). Approximately 58% of this state appropriation is required to be used for support of entrepreneurs through the University’s Center for Business Growth and Innovation and Advance Iowa. UNI is required to focus expenditures on projects that will provide economic stimulus in Iowa and emphasize providing services to Iowa-based companies. These programs operate with various levels of support from other funds. All programs pursue grants and contracts, foundation support, federal funds, fees for services, and other sources of revenue.

Metal Casting Center (MCC) 

The MCC provides foundry research, applied technology, and technical business assistance directly to the foundry industry. The MCC links university research and resources to private sector applications by providing cutting-edge technology and concepts as well as modern metal casting facilities with capacity and expertise to provide full pilot plan capabilities. The MCC has recently expanded 3D printing facilities and technical resources to become one of the nation’s leaders in additive manufacturing.

Institute for Decision Making (IDM)

 Established in 1987, the IDM guides organizations and community-based groups in making decisions and taking organized action toward economic and community development results. The IDM serves and advises economic development corporations, chambers of commerce, convention and visitor bureaus, community planning organizations, regional workforce groups, regional entrepreneur programs and other similar groups. More than 700 economic development organizations or communities have been served.


MyEntre.Net Program

MyEntre.Net is an entrepreneurship development system consisting of an online social network and free web resources, coupled with collaboratively delivered services for entrepreneurs in Iowa. In 2009, MyEntre.Net became a statewide interactive community offering live webinars, peer learning, and other business services. The MyEntre.Net team and resources have partnered with the Iowa Economic Development Authority to offer online resources via A component of the MyEntre.Net Program and IASourceLink is the Business Concierge service, designed to provide secondary research and on-demand business information to answer the clients’ most pressing business questions via e-mail, online chat, and over the phone. In 2015, the Regional Business Center and MyEntre.Net brands became the UNI Center for Business Growth and Innovation.

Center for Business Growth and Innovation

The Center serves entrepreneurs and small- and medium-sized business owners throughout the state of Iowa. For the past two decades, the Center has built a network of resources and services designed to attract, connect, and accelerate small business and start-up growth with direct technical assistance, connections to capital, partner resources, and valuable connections to their peers. In 1994, the Small Business Development Center expanded traditional small business assistance and created the UNI Regional Business Center.  In 2015, the Regional Business Center and MyEntre.Net brands became the UNI Center for Business Growth and Innovation. Annually, the Center evaluates its effectiveness in terms of economic impact, user experiences, and potential to scale. UNI has learned how to better understand entrepreneurs through online interactions, an e-mail listserv, statewide annual survey, regional workshops and outreach events, Dream Big Grow Here, and EntreFEST, an event that has recently been migrated to the Iowa entrepreneurial community.

Advance Iowa

In 2012, Advance Iowa started as a pilot program of the Center for Business Growth and Innovation to serve mid-size Iowa firms. Extensive research by the Kauffman Foundation, Lowe Foundation and others in the field suggests that a large share of job growth is being generated from mid-sized companies. The economic development landscape is filled with resources for small startups and large companies. Advance Iowa fills the gap between the startup stage and large companies.  These mid-size companies are looking to grow from within the current boundaries of their infrastructure. Many times this is by launching a new product, ramping up marketing, redefining the customer base and/or offering other strategies to the company. Advance Iowa is assisting these mid-sized companies in a way that has been primarily underserved.


A total of $3 million is appropriated to the Regents Innovation Fund for all three universities (UNI receives $900,000). The Regents universities invest these funds in opportunities that yield successful startups, innovative business assistance and critical research leading to commercialization. The universities are required to match the funding on a one-to-one basis from non-state resources. UNI’s $900,000 goes towards:

  • Entrepreneurship Outreach and Economic Gardening
  • Technology Transfer, Business Incubation and Additive Manufacturing
  • Regional Development
  • Competitive and Market Intelligence

Our funding request is status quo.