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IEDA approves state incentives for Dubuque, Cedar Rapids businesses

The Iowa Economic Development Authority Board has approved state incentives for two companies—Eco Lips and Simmons Pet Food—with the promise of the creation of 284 new jobs.

The projects are located in Cedar Rapids and Dubuque.

Simmons Pet Food to establish operation in Dubuque

The IEDA board approved $3.3 million in tax credits for Simmons Pet Food Inc, as well as an $800,000 forgivable loan.

Simmons Pet Food, Inc. (Simmons) is the largest co-manufacturer and private label pet food maker in North America. Simmons manufactures wet and dry pet food for dogs and cats and pet treats for dogs.

The company plans to increase its wet pet food production capacity with the purchase of a building and equipment for a new operation, followed by a second canning line and a 75,000 square foot expansion of the distribution center and warehouse.

The project is expected to create 271 jobs, of which 206 are incented at a qualifying wage of $20.49 per hour.

Eco Lips to expand in Cedar Rapids

The board approved $238,000 in tax credits for Eco Lips Inc.

Eco Lips manufactures and distributes nationally recognized lip products under the Eco Lips label, which can be found in over 10,000 retail locations and through e-commerce platforms. The company also offers full-service manufacturing for private label and contract manufacturing customers with turn-key packaging and fulfillment solutions.

With plans to purchase an existing facility in Cedar Rapids, Eco Lips will more than double the manufacturing and warehouse space to accommodate growth and expansion.

The project will represent a capital investment of close to $5.6 million and will create 13 jobs incented at a qualifying wage of $23.20 per hour.

IEDA approves state incentives for Dubuque, Cedar Rapids businesses | 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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