Skilled Worker and Job Creation Fund (SWJCF) - $400,000 increase in FY 24
UNI economic development programs are required to focus expenditures on projects that will provide economic stimulus in Iowa and emphasize providing services to Iowa-based companies. UNI economic development programs received an annual $1.07 million appropriation from the SWJCF. All UNI programs pursue grants and contracts, foundation support, federal funds, fees for services, and other sources of revenue. 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.
Five UNI centers share funding from this economic development appropriation - the Institute for Decision Making, Metal Casting Center, Advance Iowa, Family Business Center and the Iowa SourceLink program (supported by the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center). These programs provide valuable, ongoing economic development support to communities, small- and medium-sized businesses, entrepreneurs, and manufacturers across the state.
In addition to the $1.07 million SWJCF appropriation, UNI is requesting $400,000 in FY 24 to support expansion of the growing Family Business Center and the Institute for Decision Making. The Family Business Center is playing a critical role in supporting Iowa’s family-owned businesses and has gained substantial support from family businesses of all sizes in all regions of the state. Nationwide, about 70 percent of businesses have some family tie. Another focus of the expansion is to support economic developers in the pursuit of Manufacturing 4.0, the innovation economy, and to address workforce issues. UNI’s intent is to help Iowa not only remain competitive, but to grow Iowa’s economy.
In addition, a total of $3 million is appropriated from the SWJCF 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. Status quo funding is requested to the Regents Innovation Fund. UNI’s $900,000 goes towards entrepreneurship outreach and economic gardening; technology transfer, business incubation and additive manufacturing; regional development; and competitive and market intelligence.
Five UNI centers share funding from the $1.07 million economic development appropriation:
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. Recent priorities for IDM programming are guiding regional and statewide workforce initiatives and supporting economic developers with statewide Manufacturing 4.0 initiatives.
Metal Casting Center (MCC)
The MCC now includes the Foundry 4.0 Center and 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. For the past two years, the MCC and Foundry 4.0 Center have focused on supporting industry/manufacturing 4.0 for the casting industry. Foundry 4.0 facilities on the UNI campus and at TechWorks in Waterloo, lead innovations for the foundry industry in 3D printing, sensors, Internet of Things (IoT), and investment casting technologies. No other university-based applied research program in the U.S. is better equipped to support technology deployment to the foundry industry.
UNI’s former Center for Business Growth and Innovation was integrated under the umbrella of Advance Iowa in 2021. These centers serve entrepreneurs and small- and medium-sized business owners throughout the state. Two of the primary goals are business transition and employee ownership. This includes work to support ESOPs in Iowa and other forms of employee ownership, with a focus on rural regions of Iowa. Advance Iowa also has a number of peer working groups across the state and assists small businesses with strategic direction.
Family Business Center
In 2021, the Family Business Center was formally recognized by the Iowa Board of Regents as a center. Family business programming was delivered for three year to determine the level of need and interest across Iowa. The FBC focuses on the important issues or family businesses, including governance, communication and transition. Programming includes a breakfast series for family businesses, an annual conference, peer groups, platforms for direct family-to-family interaction and other support.
MyEntre.Net Program/Iowa SourceLink
MyEntre.Net expanded into a partnership with the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) and has expanded substantially over the past decade to now be called Iowa Source Link. IASourceLink.com is an entrepreneurship development system consisting of an online social network and free web resources, coupled with collaboratively delivered services for entrepreneurs in Iowa. The network includes a Business Concierge (BC) to assist entrepreneurs with data and referrals to address specific questions. Last year, nearly 1,700 business were supported by the BC team and IASourceLink.com had 63,500 unique visitors. Another service of IASourceLink.com is the Business License Information Center, which helps small business with licensing information and support in conjunction with the Secretary of State.