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The Iowan Project is recruiting tech-skilled Iowa expats back to the state

What was initially a database allowing former Iowans to connect has evolved into a workforce attraction campaign to identify tech-skilled Iowa expats and recruit them back to the state.

The Iowan Project is a web application featuring an interactive map of Iowa expats around the world. Users “drop their pin” on their current location and list past associations with the state of Iowa including hometown, educational institutions, and past workplaces. Users can find and connect with fellow Iowans in their area. The website has been active and collecting information for the database for the past three years.

“Those of us who have been lucky enough to live in Iowa know how great it is,” said Mollie Ross, Director of Events and Talent Development at the Technology Association of Iowa. “It’s a lot easier to get connected with people who have already had the experience of being in Iowa and know all the benefits that the state has to offer.”

Registered users of the Iowan Project receive regular communications from TAI and Iowan Project partners including news, updates and job opportunities from featured Iowa communities and employers in an attempt to recruit them back to the state.

“There always people who say they would consider moving back to Iowa if the right opportunities were there,” Ross said. “It’s just a matter of getting those right opportunities in front of them.”

Chicago Meetup

The Iowan Project will be hosting a regional meetup in Chicago this evening.

The meetup will offer attendees the opportunity to network with fellow Iowans and to learn about technology careers and the great lifestyle amenities offered by Iowa communities.

“It’s a fun opportunity to target some cities where we know there are a large number of Iowa expats currently living,” Ross said.

The Chicago meetup is just the second regional meetup hosted by the Iowa Project. The first meetup was held in Denver in June of this year.

“We hosted two events this year to feel it out see how people responded,” Ross said. “Fortunately, we’ve had a really great response. It’s looking like a great turnout crowd for the Chicago meetup. So it’s something we’ll likely continue in the future.”






The Iowan Project is recruiting tech-skilled Iowa expats back to the state | 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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