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Middle Bit: Gov. Reynolds announces “This is Iowa” campaign

Governor Kim Reynolds announced this week this the “This is Iowa” campaign, a new effort to encourage people from across the nation to visit, live and work in Iowa. The campaign is designed to spur economic growth by revealing the great quality of life that is available in the state.

As part of the campaign launch a video was released today, capturing New York residents realizing how Iowa is not only cost-effective, but home to modern amenities, short commutes and award-winning recreation and culture.

“Iowa is the best place in America to live, work, and raise a family,” said Gov. Reynolds. “With the entire country struggling to attract and train a quality workforce, Iowa has taken the lead in addressing this challenge holistically. This is Iowa will raise awareness to the numerous opportunities that exist to establish careers, raise families and have new experiences. There has never been a better time to tell our story and to encourage both businesses and people to make Iowa their home.”

Through a variety of communication channels including advertising and social media, the campaign will reach out to those outside the state showing what it’s really like to visit, work and live in Iowa.

Smart Ag opens new company headquarters in Ames

Smart Ag, a technology company that develops autonomous farming solutions for row crop agriculture, announced the opening of its headquarters this spring at 1115 South Bell Ave. in Ames.

The 12,000-square-foot facility devotes half of its floorplan to office space for a growing number of employees, currently 25. The other half has been designed to meet Smart Ag’s unique research and development and manufacturing needs.

“This is an incredibly exciting time for Smart Ag,” said Colin Hurd, Smart Ag Founder and CEO, in an announcement. “As we plan for the future, this new facility allows us to grow and legitimize all aspects of our business – engineering, manufacturing, and backhouse operations. At this time, we are occupying less than half of our total space. We see this as an opportunity to successfully scale our business, and our amazing team, over the next several years as we look to commercialize the AutoCart application next fall.”

Smart Ag, formerly housed within Iowa State University’s Research Park, designed its headquarters specifically for commercialization of its AutoCart product, a software application that fully automates a grain cart tractor.

“We have an efficient, thoughtfully laid out research and development space that will allow us to meet the demand of commercialization for our AutoCart product,” Hurd said. “This, combined with new production space, holds endless possibilities for the future of Smart Ag.”

The new headquarters includes an open-concept format and a second-floor area overlooking the production space that provides both functionality and inspiration for Smart Ag’s innovative work – bringing a fun and modern twist to agriculture.

TAI to hold Diversity & Inclusion Lunch and Learn

Panelists from Dwolla, Collins Aerospace, CUNA Mutual, and Geonetric will discuss workplace policies for better company culture at the Diversity and Inclusion Lunch and Learn on Friday, June 28.

The panel will explore how Iowa’s technology industry can provide women, LGBTQ individuals, people of color, and rural Iowans equal opportunities within the workplace.

Shea Daniels, Lead Software Engineer at Dwolla will moderate the event. The three panelists are: Amanda Green, Lead Tech at Collins Aerospace; Sharina Sallis, Community Relations Manager at CUNA Mutual Group; Ben Dillon, co-owner and Chief Strategy Officer at Geonetric.

Middle Bit: Gov. Reynolds announces "This is Iowa" campaign | 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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