RED OAK, Iowa -- A rural development center that will serve the needs of businesses in Southwest Iowa is opening a new headquarters this spring as the result of a four-year effort by a working group of community and economic development partners representing 22 counties in the region.
A $300,000 technical assistance grant to the Southwest Iowa Entrepreneurial Center was announced in late March by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Agency. The grant, coupled with other awards received earlier, gives the center a startup budget of $646,000, according to Jim Offenbacker, president of the Southwest Iowa Coalition and executive director of the Bedford Area Economic Development group.
Primary partners in developing the center and securing funding have included Iowa State University Extension Community and Economic Development, the Southwest Iowa Coalition, the Grow Iowa Foundation, and the Wallace Foundation for Rural Research and Development. Design of the Center by these primary partners began almost five years ago with beginning discussion led by Steve Adams, an ISU Extension community development field specialist. In 2003, Lynn Adams, also a community development field specialist for ISU Extension, joined him in the effort and the proposal and grant-writing started.
The new center will be housed in offices provided by supporting collaborator, Southwestern Community College, at the Technology Center in Red Oak. Previous grants from the Iowa Department of Economic Development are funding the state’s first rural, business accelerator that will now be housed at the Center.
The Red Oak location will serve as a communication hub to bring together resources and service providers for businesses in Southwest Iowa. Coalition leaders say it will help eliminate duplication of effort and provide central networking for users. Satellite offices also will be established to extend the reach of the headquarters, and technical assistance staff will travel throughout the service area. The center will increase the efficiency of service delivery to support startups and expansions for businesses of all sizes.
The Southwest Iowa Coalition, which was formed in 1991, has memberships throughout 17 counties in the region that include chambers of commerce, economic development groups, business development organizations and individuals. The eligible counties for service through the Center are based on its membership in combination with the primary partners’ membership and service areas. Eligible counties are Adair, Adams, Audubon, Carroll, Cass, Clarke, Crawford, Decatur, Fremont, Greene, Guthrie, Harrison, Madison, Mills, Monona, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattamie, Ringgold, Shelby, Taylor and Union counties.
For more information, see the Southwest Iowa Coalition Web site (http://www.swico.org/).