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Iowa Economic Gardening Network

UNI is leading a new initiative beginning in the fall of 2012 to serve existing mid-sized Iowa businesses with customized technical assistance through an approach called Economic Gardening.  The new program will be called Advance Iowa.

Economic Gardening
Economic Gardening (EG) is a highly customized set of technical assistance services delivered in part, by a specialty research team, offering in-depth secondary market research, business intelligence, social media marketing assistance and growth strategy options to employer firms with 9-99 employees. First developed in Littleton, Colorado, Economic Gardening was adopted and scaled by the Edward Lowe Foundation in 2010 and a National Center for Economic Gardening established. Economic Gardening programs are currently running, or are being piloted, in 17 regions nationwide including statewide programs in Florida, Michigan and Missouri.

An Iowa Economic Gardening Network
Working with the National Center for Economic Gardening (NCEG) and the Iowa Economic Development Authority, UNI has developed a model for a statewide Economic Gardening network to serve a specific segment of the Iowa small business community, specifically established firms with 9-99 employees, commonly referred to as Stage II companies.

The NCEG has certified UNI as the statewide hub for Innovate Iowa services. UNI has assembled the research tools and trained an in-state team of NCEG certified research professionals and proposes a pilot project spanning September 2012 through June 2013. The UNI core team will deliver research services during the pilot project and will be joined by other economic development professionals with expertise in core research areas to expand the network in 2013 and beyond.

In this 10 month pilot, we intend to capitalize on our strong network of economic development organizations (EDO’s), train them in the process and the types of firms that will make great candidates for services, then begin service delivery to 12-15 companies between January and June 2013. Beginning in the fall of 2012, interested EDO’s will be asked to obtain organizational certification as NCEG certified economic development programs. Once certified, each EDO will be able to recommend and participate in the delivery of services to companies in their regions.

Referred businesses will undergo a short phone interview with UNI staff and the referring regional economic development professional to insure these services are an appropriate tool for them, and to educate potential companies about how these resources can be converted into expansion strategies.

The UNI EG team will provide direct services beginning in January of 2013. The team leader and referring EDO’s will meet with the companies in person, while the expert teams will participate by phone during each session. Each business will receive an average of 40 hours of research assistance initially and can opt back in for additional assistance throughout the following 12 months as they implement growth and expansion plans. At the conclusion of team work, the business owner will have received customized business intelligence (for example; market, industry, competitive) and recommendations associated with growth and expansion opportunities. The EDO will lead ongoing business communications with companies they have referred into the network and six month, one year and two year interviews will measure economic impact among companies served in 2013.

Initial work has been done by UNI to assess demand and interest in EG services. The early response has been very positive as EDO’s from various regions of the state have expressed a strong willingness to participate in the program – including the Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corporation; the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at NIACC; the Northeast Iowa Business Network; the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance; the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Iowa City Area Development Group and Marshalltown Works project. We are in the process of identifying other organizations critical to statewide penetration and those conversations are in progress.

A training program is being held on October 2nd at 10:00 am on the Farm Bureau campus in Des Moines. If your EDO is interested in this training or becoming a part of the Iowa Economic Gardening proram contact Dan Beeken at (319) 273-4322 or dan.beeken@uni.edu.

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