UNI Assists Iowa’s Business Retention & Expansion Efforts

UNI Assists Iowa’s Business Retention & Expansion Efforts

Iowa Map

The Iowa Economic Development Authority, economic development partners and utilities recently announced existing business trends and key findings identified through the Business Expansion and Strategic Trends (BEST) of Iowa initiative. What you may not know is that the data analysis and the annual report are conducted through the work of two programs within UNI’s Business and Community Services.

Since 2015, UNI’s Institute for Decision Making (IDM) and Strategic Marketing Services (SMS) have assisted the BEST of Iowa initiative by analyzing the statewide data and producing a BEST of Iowa annual report that highlights the key findings. Additionally, IDM and SMS developed a Local Report Template tool for local economic developers to enable them to annually compare the data from their employer interviews with statewide aggregate data.

The program collects existing business data through interviews with local employers by local economic developers.  The data collected helps economic development organizations and their partners identify such things as business expansion opportunities or potential issues that could lead to a business downsizing or closure in their community.  The statewide data also helps to inform and shape Iowa’s economic development programs and policies.

With the unique challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, IDM and SMS assisted the BEST of Iowa team in developing a new set of interview questions and an online interview tool since the local employer interviews needed to be conducted virtually.  In a span of three months, 813 Iowa companies from 76 different counties were interviewed with SMS and IDM providing oversight and troubleshooting challenges that arose. 

The full report was released this week.  An executive summary of the 2020 Annual Report can be found here. BEST of Iowa is viewed as a national model since Iowa is the only state with this type of statewide effort.  The BEST of Iowa is led by the Iowa Economic Development of Authority, MidAmerican Energy, Alliant Energy, Black Hills Energy, and the Iowa Area Development Group.