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4 counties receive Best of Iowa Excellence Award

Economic development award winners were announced by the Business Expansion and Strategic Trends (BEST of Iowa).

This year, the BEST of Iowa Excellence Awards went to Greater Dubuque Development Corporation, Kossuth/Palo Alto Economic Development Corporation, Marion County Development Commission and Montgomery County Development Corporation for their work in supporting Iowa’s existing businesses.

BEST of Iowa is a collaboration of local economic development groups working with Iowa’s utilities and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA). Its mission is to strengthen relationships with Iowa companies to provide a better understanding of issues impacting the ability to do business in the state. 

“BEST of Iowa would not be the success it is without the invaluable work of our local economic development partners. The feedback received contributes to determining statewide trends, creating programs to address the concerns of our business community and ensuring Iowa’s business climate remains globally competitive,” said Debi Durham, director of the IEDA and Iowa Finance Authority.

The 2019 BEST of Iowa key findings and conclusions identified trend information from more than 800 interviews completed with companies across 66 counties in 165 communities. 

“Getting first-hand feedback from businesses across our state is critical to making sure we’re setting the stage for economic success,” said Drew Conrad, director at the Institute for Decision Making at the University of Northern Iowa, in an announcement. “Our business owners live the good and bad of our business environment every day. Giving those honest experiences attention allows us to be strategic in how to effectively help our communities thrive.” 

One of the study’s key findings revealed that Iowa’s workforce needs to be enhanced and grown.

“Nearly half of the companies interviewed rated the availability of workforce in their area as low, and 22% of the companies with plans to expand during the next three years stated their community in Iowa may not be considered for the expansion because of that workforce concern,” said Conrad.The good news is we can take action now to make sure Iowa is prepared and in the running for those opportunities.”

4 counties receive Best of Iowa Excellence Award | 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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