Through Advance Iowa’s so-called economic gardening center, team members identify companies that are looking for growth opportunities or have new products to bring to market, said Dan Beenken, director of Advance Iowa.
Advance Iowa is now recruiting 30 to 40 clients to be a part of the program for the rest of the fiscal year, Beenken said.
“We have a team of specialists in a variety of areas, including market research, social media and new media marketing and geographic information systems and strategy,” he said. “We get that team together and work with that client on a specific project for about 40 hours.
“We think of ourselves as contract staff to that company, so rather than thinking of ourselves as consultants … we look for them to provide the direction on what issue they want to work on.”
The program had a six-month pilot period involving 25 clients that began in January.
Advance Iowa wants companies with between 10 and 100 employees and less than $50 million in revenue — companies that are local job creators, Beenken said.
The program is open to manufacturers, food production companies, software companies and online retailers among others, he said.
The program received $75,000 through a state appropriation during its pilot period. The team now has $500,000 and is tasked with helping 50 to 60 companies over the next 12 months, Beenken said.
The University of Northern Iowa will serve as the hub for the program in the state, he said.
During its pilot period, Advance Iowa worked with Northern Filter Media, a company involved in sand mining that in turn had worked with another business on a product that could kill bacteria and viruses, Beenken said. The company developed that into a product that could be used as a filter for swimming pools.
“They have a great product, but they didn’t know how to market it,” he said. “We helped them identify markets to go after, people to talk to, helped them with their web presence, identified an e-commerce partner (and identified) places to market their product essentially, and they’ve taken that and run with it.”