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Q&A: Meet our presence at the Iowa State Capitol

Iowa Legislature Reporter

Clay & Milk will be covering the 87th General Assembly of the Iowa Legislature and anything that impacts Iowa’s tech, startup and art communities.

Although she’s only in her second year at Drake University, Morgan Garner—a Strategic Political Communication and Economics major—has enough credits to be a senior and will report on any legislation impacting those communities.

Garner is a native of St. Louis who has spent time as an intern for LobbyIt in Washington D.C, a communication assistant at the Drake University Agricultural Law Center and a political columnist for the student newspaper the Times-Delphic.

We got a chance to know her during the interview process but thought we’d introduce her to our readers.

Our Q&A is below:

& How did you get to Des Moines?

MG: I’m from St. Louis, Missouri but happily transplanted to Iowa in 2016. I chose to attend school in Iowa, specifically at Drake, because of my love of politics and presidents. I wanted to be in the state that plays a huge role in picking our next president. I’m a sophomore at Drake studying Economics and Strategic Political Communication. I plan to graduate early and move out to D.C. right after.

& How were first introduced to politics?

MG: My dad doesn’t know it, but he’s very political. He’s always grumbling about what he heard on NPR or saw in The Atlantic. Because of that, I always feel behind if I don’t know what is going on in my state, nation and world.

My earliest political memory was watching Obama’s 2008 inauguration on television. I was in fifth grade and was turned on in the classroom when I arrived. My teacher kept repeating, “Class, you’ll remember this forever” because she was so proud that an African American was elected president.

& Talk about your experiences being involved in politics

MG: Tangibly, I’ve only worked in politics for a little over a year. As soon as I got to Drake, I joined a congressional campaign and worked as a field intern. I knocked hundreds of doors and called hundreds of people. Like most people, I strongly disliked field work, but I had to start from the bottom.

The spring after the campaign, I worked for Vote Smart, a non-partisan research organization, doing bill research. I learned valuable tracking skills and knowledge of political structure.

During the summer of 2017, I interned in Washington, D.C., at a boutique government relations firm called Lobbyit. I loved the entire experience, which allowed me to visit the Hill and watch hearings and events every day.

& How has that experience prepared you to cover the Iowa Legislature?

MG: My unique mixture of experiences working on a campaign, for a political research organization and for a lobbying firm provide a well-rounded perspective to see what people want and need to hear from the happenings at the Capitol.

& What made you want to cover the Iowa Legislature?

MG: I love Iowa, and I love politics, so the opportunity to merge the two is ideal. While I do want to live in D.C. one day, Iowa provides a great learning experience and context for national politics. Like America, Iowa land is mostly rural, but the population is mostly urban, creating a challenge for politicians trying to navigate the urban-rural divide. Iowa politics will hopefully prepare me for seeing that challenge on a national level.

& What issues get your attention?

MG: I always pay attention to farm bills or anything related to agriculture because my family has a fifth-generation farm in Southern Illinois. Furthermore, I’m really intrigued by cybersecurity legislation (and the lack of it).

& Other students your age, what are they saying about politics?

MG: Despite our surprisingly high turnout in November 2016, most are still disengaged. Interests piqued with the sexual misconduct scandals, likely because a large percentage of students are from Minnesota, home of Al Franken.

& What excites you about covering the legislative session?

MG: I greatly anticipate this much-talked-about tax reform. I’ll also be interested in how the water quality bill is passed and how it’s funded.

& What do you want Clay & Milk readers to know about you as a reporter?

MG: I really want to create a reputation for accuracy and fairness that I can
carry throughout my career.



Q&A: Meet our presence at the Iowa State Capitol | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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