UNI-LogoTwo counties in southwest Iowa are hoping to spark new business and help to grow existing businesses with a new regional entrepreneurship project, partnering with the University of Northern Iowa.

Wayne Pantini, executive director of the Union County Development Association, says the focus will be on Adams and Union counties.

“We have been working together for several years on delivering services to our small businesses within this region, but now it’s time to take things to the next level,” Pantini says. “We have a great opportunity, working with the folks from the University Center at the University of Northern Iowa.” James Hoelscher is managing UNI’s Business and Community Services program.

“There are about 13 different programs that are all designed to focus on helping economic development organizations, communities in Iowa, take care of their business retention and expansion needs,” Hoelscher says. “If it has to do with growing the community or growing business, we’re all about that.” The program at UNI was created in 2012 and is now in three areas of the state.

Region 1 in west-central Iowa includes Adair, Guthrie, Greene and Audubon counties. Region 2 is in north-central Iowa and includes Hamilton and Wright counties. Region 3 covers the counties surrounding Sioux City in northwest Iowa, Monona, Plymouth and Woodbury. “Each of those regions have economic development organizations that have really committed to taking entrepreneurship and utilizing that as a key development strategy,” Hoelscher says. “When you’re trying to bring in new jobs and new businesses to a community, we know that we need to grow our own.”

Hoelscher cites practical ways to accomplish those goals. “What we want to do is make sure our entrepreneurs are strong, that people are being encouraged to start businesses, to continue businesses, if they have a business currently, to get any assistance they might need to maximize their potential,” he says.

The system is built around four basic ideas: supportive culture, access to capital, networking, and technical assistance. Adams and Union counties are now a part of the new program, which is funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and the UNI Business and Community Services.

(Reporting by Jordan Armstrong, KSIB, Creston)