Economic Development & Entrepreneurship

The FY 2018 request is $1,087,747, which is a 2% ($21,328) inflationary increase from FY 2017.  Each State dollar invested in UNI’s economic development efforts leverages nearly $5 in federal, grants or private sources.

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 recently 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. More than 1,200 Iowa entrepreneurs accessed Business Concierge services in FY 2016.

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 which has recently been migrated to the Iowa entrepreneurial community.

Advance Iowa: In 2012, Advance Iowa began 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, amping 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.

Helping Iowa Grow Its Own – a UNI Initiative to Support Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses:$500,000

The FY 2018 request includes a $500,000 new request from the Skilled Workers and Job Creation Fund to support entrepreneurs and small businesses (Helping Iowa Grow Its Own).  The focus is to enhance existing programs that have proven effective in building vitality for Iowa’s economy.  Direct assistance will be provided to entrepreneurs and small businesses in all regions of Iowa and will build on the momentum of Iowa being recognized as a supportive place to start and grow a business. 

A brief description of the key initiatives is outlined below.

  1. Additive Manufacturing – Supporting the foundry industry has long been a unique service of the UNI Metal Casting Center.  The installation of a large-format 3D sand mold printer, direct metal printer, and plastic printers has placed UNI in a unique position to help more than 100 companies adopt new technologies.  However, small- and medium-sized foundries and pattern shops in Iowa need technical assistance prior to effectively using 3D printing technologies.  Computer aided drafting (CAD) designs and virtual reality modeling are needed for these companies to effectively integrate 3D printing into their operations.  The UNI Metal Casting Center has partnered with Hawkeye Community College to develop a design lab to serve basic industry design needs for 3D printing.  With additional investment, the design lab can expand services to provide industry-wide employee training in advanced design techniques and software utilization.  Both company employees and students will receive tailored training to become effective designers and substantially enhance the Iowa workforce.  Design services can also be offered remotely to community colleges across Iowa.  This expansion of services and partnerships is yet another step toward the UNI Metal Casting Center becoming the premier additive manufacturing center in the United States.

  2. Advance Iowa (AI) – The Battelle Memorial Institute has outlined economic development strategies for Iowa and specifically recommended expanding AI as a strategic priority in the recently released “Economic Development Roadmap for Iowa.”  UNI’s AI program is endorsed by IEDA as Iowa’s Economic Gardening hub.  Second stage companies are defined as having 10-99 employees and at least $1 million in sales and are responsible for a significant number of newly created jobs, positively impacting our local and state economy.  With assistance from AI, Iowa’s second stage companies can begin to enter the growth curve and to develop and expand into national and global markets.  UNI’s AI program has experienced success in delivering strategic assistance and support to more than 130 second stage Iowa companies in the past year.  Additional funding is required to expand the service delivery channel by modestly increasing the staffing capacity through designated regional representatives and supporting entrepreneur roundtables.  These expanded efforts will target companies within the state that have the greatest potential for job growth.