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Middle Bit: Ranking the best cities in Iowa by their local economy


New data released earlier this month suggests that communities and cities across the country with research universities and a low cost of living tend to have stronger economies and can attract more tech jobs to the region.

The Milken Institute—a California-based nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank—released its annual list of, “Best performing cities” in the United States with the strongest economies. The list is broken down into “big cities” and “small cities.”

Iowa cities on the large city list were:

  • Des Moines/West Des Moines was ranked 56th among large cities, improving six spots from 2016
  • Cedar Rapids was ranked 158th, dropping 25 spots from 2016
  • Davenport/Quad Cities was ranked 194, dropping two spots from 2016

Among the small cities:

  • Ames was ranked 33rd among small cities, dropping 22 spots from 2016
  • Iowa City was ranked 47th among small cities, dropping three spots from 2016
  • Sioux City was ranked 100, improving six spots from 2016
  • Dubuque was ranked 149, dropping 89 spots from 2016
  • Waterloo/Cedar Falls 185, dropping 26 spots from 2016

Metropolitan areas across the country were judged based on nine metrics, including job creation, wage gains and technology developments to evaluate the relative growth of the area.

Cities that performed better in 2017 not only featured a variety of tech industries, they are able to support tech companies at different points in their lifecycle. For example, the top ranking big city in 2017 was Provo, Utah.

According to the report, the reason Provo earned the top spot was due to adding 5,500 high tech jobs in the last five years and calls attention to Brigham Young University as not only a major source of employment but a pipeline of skilled talent for the workforce.

“The university fosters an entrepreneurial culture, offering attractive incentives for faculty to commercialize research,” the report says.

VentureBeat reported that companies over 670 companies from Brigham Young University have secured over $1.3 billion in funding.

The top ranking small city was Bend, OR.

To view the data and the full report, click here.

Truck hailing company Bungii raises $3 million in K.C

Kansas City-based Bungii—who created an app to connect users with area truck drivers to haul items—completed a $3 million Series A round, according to a story Thursday in

According to the story, Bungii originally targeted $2 million and will use the funding towards a national expansion. Kansas City-based PerceptiveEquity, C2FO CEO Sandy Kemper and other private investors raised the fund.

The platform is currently in the midst of rolling out in Atlanta.

What else happened…


Head of the Iowa Communications Network fired – The Des Moines Register


Top Kansas City startups to watch in 2018 –

Rent the Runway CEO taps St. Louis for its garment district –

Lewis & Clark Ventures on investing $100 million in the Heartland –

Kansas City not among finalists for HQ2 –


Virtual Incision completes $18 million Series B round – SPN


Twin Cities don’t make the cut for Amazon HQ2 – StarTribune

Why losing the Amazon bid may not be bad for Twin Cities –


Columbus makes first cut for Amazon HQ2 –

The ‘Middle Bit’ is bits of news from around the other tech, startup and art communities in the Midwest.

Middle Bit: Ranking the best cities in Iowa by their local economy | 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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