Thanks to funding from the Iowa legislature, the University of Northern Iowa’s Advance Iowa program, the state’s only certified Economic Gardening center, is off and running. The purpose of the program is to provide an array of services to second stage businesses (10-99 employees) fostering growth.
Economic Gardening, often referred to as a “grow your own” strategy for economic development, is a proven and innovative economic growth strategy that focuses on providing information and tools to grow existing businesses. Advance Iowa has taken this approach and adapted it to meet the unique needs of Iowa. To do this, the Advance Iowa team consists of skilled researchers who mine sophisticated databases and use high-end tools related to search engine optimization, geographic information systems and social media marketing. Some examples of the assistance provided by Advance Iowa:
● Identifying market trends, prioritizing sales leads, competitive data and business opportunities
● Refining companies’ core strategies and business models
● Raising visibility for a firm’s web presence via search engine optimization strategies
● Using social media to connect with customers and create buzz about products or services
Dan Beenken, Program Manager of Advance Iowa says, “This program represents a new way of supporting growth companies and letting Iowa business owners know how important they are to their local economies.”
“From my experience working with the Advance Iowa Team, I can see that this effort can not only make a real difference in a company’s bottom line but also provides another tool in our toolbox for economic development,” said Greg Jenkins with the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Steve Dust, CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber adds, “Advance Cedar Valley, a service of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber, is a tremendous business development tool in the sectors we have targeted for ‘gardening’ – manufacturing and product-oriented digital IT. Our team can provide Advance Cedar Valley services throughout the economic region only because Advance Iowa is in place to deliver the data and consultant expertise necessary for success.”
The process works by Advance Iowa partnering with economic development organizations across the state who then locate businesses within their region that are prime for growth. The Advance Iowa team then works directly with the business along with the economic development organization to gather customized actionable data and develop a plan to implement the strategies developed. A list of current economic development partners can be found at http://advanceiowa.com/edo-partners/.
The Iowa Small Business Development Centers will be available to assist firms with follow up on their projects. Their statewide network of consultants will work closely with the Advance Iowa staff and provide implementation counseling once a client project is complete.
About Advance Iowa. Advance Iowa is the statewide economic gardening program for Iowa, focused on helping mid-sized companies with strategic growth projects. Advance Iowa is program of Business and Community Services at the University of Northern Iowa. For more information, visit http://advanceiowa.com/.