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Middle Bit: IEDA approves funding for new projects

Last week, the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) Board approved awards for four companies, which will assist in the creation of 478 jobs, the retention of six jobs and more than $52 million in new capital investment for the state. 

Lopez Foods, Inc. to expand in Cherokee 
Lopez Foods, Inc., headquartered in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, will remodel a 285,000-square-foot vacant facility the company purchased in Cherokee. The project will include the installation of manufacturing equipment and computer hardware. Upon completion, Lopez Foods will produce Canadian-style bacon logs, fresh and frozen beef patties and other new product lines to be sold to an international restaurant chain.

Insurance company expands corporate headquarters in Des Moines 
In business for 60 years, Fidelity & Guaranty Life Insurance Company provides retirement and life insurance solutions for nearly 700,000 customers. The company is expanding its corporate headquarters in downtown Des Moines to accommodate anticipated company growth. The new office location will include approximately 83,000 square feet of leased office space and a complete tenant improvement build out.

Two Dubuque-based insurance companies establish joint venture
Cottingham & Butler Insurance Services, Inc., provides a full suite of risk management and employee benefits services. Heartland Financial USA, Inc. offers banking solutions for business and personal clients. The two companies have established a joint venture and will purchase the Roshek Building in downtown Dubuque to expand their base of operations.

GIA to announce 2020 cohort next week, hold welcome reception Jan. 29

Next week, the Global Insurance Accelerator (GIA) will announce the startups accepted into its 2020 accelerator.

To celebrate and introduce the accepted startups into the community, GIA will be holding a welcoming reception on Jan. 29 at the Northwestern Hotel building, from 4:30-6:30 p.m.

GIA Managing Director, Nicole Gunderson, will give brief remarks at the reception, introducing the incoming startup companies.

Registration for the event is free.

Iowa AgriTech Accelerator opens applications Monday

On Monday, the Iowa Agritech Accelerator will begin taking applications for its 2020 cohort, the accelerator announced earlier this week.

Like in its first three years, startups selected to participate will receive $40,000 in seed funding, subsidized housing, office space throughout the incubator period, time with mentors and investors and opportunities to build strategic partnerships.

The 2020 Iowa Agritech Accelerator program will run from June 1 to Sept. 4 and will accept up to six startups worldwide.

Applications will close on March 30.

Intro to Des Moines Startup Scene set for Jan. 23

On Thursday, Jan. 23, Gravitate Coworking will be hosting its quarterly Intro to the Des Moines Startup Scene event with Geoff Wood, the founder and owner of Gravitate.

The event is a great opportunity to get a tour of the new Gravitate Coworking location and hear about the resources available for aspiring entrepreneurs at any stage or sector.

Wood will give a presentation sharing information about local accelerators, investors, incubators, advisors and other local resources for those interested in learning more about Des Moines’ startup ecosystem. Following the presentation will be a Q&A with Wood and another panelist, where attendees will have the chance to ask the two any questions they have.

Tickets to the event are limited and available now.

Geoff Wood is also the co-founder and Publisher of Clay & Milk.

Middle Bit: IEDA approves funding for new projects | 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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