The Daily Iowan

UNI introduces a new entrepreneurial program to foster growth around the state


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University of Iowa officials say they see a new entrepreneurship program initiated by a peer institution as a benefit to the state of Iowa.

The University of Northern Iowa has set up a program that works with six counties throughout the state to foster an environment that is conducive to entrepreneurs. The program will start out focusing on two regions in Iowa and add more regions as it goes on.

“We recognized that there were some gaps in communities across Iowa to have a coordinated effort to provide an entrepreneurial support system to try and grow companies and assist small businesses and communities,” said LaDene Bowen, assistant director at UNI’s Institute for Decision Making.

The program is being funded through an annual $150,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s University Center program. It will go through four phases in the regions where it is implemented: research about the region, community education, entrepreneurial planning, and follow-up.

In the state of Iowa, entrepreneurship has been escalating consistently for the past few years according to Lynn Allendorf, the director of the UI Bedell Entrepreneurial Learning Lab.

“Every year there’s more and more of an ecosystem, both on campus and in Iowa City supporting entrepreneurship,” she said.

With the addition of UNI’s new entrepreneurship program, the state of Iowa is even better suited to provide opportunities to a changing business world, Allendorf said.

“I don’t think there’s an aspect of competition [between UNI and UI],” she said. “We actually collaborate a great deal with them in terms of entrepreneurial programs.”

Outside of the UI, Iowa City Area Development President Mark Nolte expressed similar sentiments. Nolte provides business development assistance to existing and emerging companies for the development group, which works to help local entrepreneurs.

“We are seeing more startup activity and trying to become more of a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship,” he said. “The state has done a great job creating a continuum of programs to help fund more innovative companies along with its more traditional approaches to economic development.”

The UI’s entrepreneurial efforts focus primarily on supporting students. One example is the Bedell Entrepreneurship Learning Laboratory, which is regarded as one of the leading entrepreneurship organizations at the university level in Iowa.

“I think the Bedell Laboratory is incredibly beneficial to students,” UI entrepreneurial marketing lecturer Joe George said. “It gives students that have a business idea an opportunity to actually start that business under the watchful eye of several different teachers, whether it be from an accounting standpoint, from a marketing standpoint, from a sales standpoint, or from a strategic planning standpoint.”

While UNI also has its own resources for students, this new project is meant to complement the university’s student-directed efforts by strengthening the professional sector in Iowa, and make the state a friendlier place for business owners.

“The bottom line is we’re trying to create additional investment and jobs,” Bowen said. “The community members have to do the work. We’re just providing them with a process to hopefully reach their goals.”