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Working smarter: How state leaders will expand broadband to rural Iowa

Rural Broadband

A priority for Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds is to expand broadband capabilities to rural areas of the state, with the hopes of promoting new investment and connection in rural Iowa.

During her Condition of the State Address earlier this month, Reynolds announced that Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg would lead the initiative. Reynolds said she hoped the initiative would, “Keep and bring home Iowa’s sons and daughters and grow the next generation of community leaders.”

Gregg told Clay & Milk last week that his office is engaging with organizations who are already working to expand broadband access to understand what it is they’re working on and how they could elevate and enhance that work.

“Connecting rural Iowa through high-speed internet is so important, not only for business and agriculture, but it’s really an expectation for young people,” Gregg said. “If we expect folks to consider living in rural Iowa, they have to be connected.”

Rural broadband explained

Due to a lack of high-speed fiber optic connections, the cost and regulatory restrictions on technology companies, rural America has been underserved when it comes to broadband internet access.

But expanding rural broadband access has gained traction as more legislators recognize that access to broadband is an important piece to economic success.

“We’re really focused on finding ways to encourage investment all throughout our state, growing the state—not just in terms of population—but in terms of growing the next generation of leadership,” Gregg said. “Then, of course, connecting rural Iowa through high-speed internet.”

Reynolds said some of the work being done in her hometown of Osceola in Clark County gives her hope for what can be done across the state.

“There is a lot of interest in this rural Iowa initiative and everywhere we go people are wanting to be a part of it,” Reynolds said. “They want to talk about what they’re doing. The more that we can bring that information in, that gives us a better foundation to start from so we’re not stepping over programs that are already taking place, but rather building on the exciting initiatives that we see.”

Morgan Garner covers the Iowa Statehouse for Clay & Milk

Working smarter: How state leaders will expand broadband to rural Iowa | 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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