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Financial backing approved by Clear Lake, Cerro Gordo County for North Iowa Innovation Center proposal

MASON CITY — The Clear Lake City Council and Cerro Gordo County Board of Supervisors this week have approved financial commitments to the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center on the North Iowa Area Community College campus as part of their grant application for funding to create the North Iowa Innovation Center.

North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Corporation executive director Chad Schreck says the center would help address north-central Iowa’s technology sector and where the economy is going.  “How do we address these issues more effectively? How do we make sure we have the tools and resources available for our technology companies, the Kinglands of the world, the Teamquests. Now we’re seeing with the COVID pandemic how many people are working from home, the opportunity to attract tech workers from anywhere in the country, because they no longer have to work at the office. So we’re trying to look at all those different things, the way that the economy is going, making sure as a rural community that we aren’t getting left behind.”

Schreck says north-central Iowa has a lot of good foundation points, but the center would tie everything together.  “We’ve got a lot of strong assets, but we haven’t necessarily put them all together, we haven’t created a cohesive unit. That’s a big part of what this project is trying to do is put a team together, tie these things together a little bit more so we can build that talent pipeline, fill the jobs that are currently here and the jobs that are going to be created in the future, but also roll out around tech startups and entrepreneurship, those high growth, high value companies.”

Schreck says Pappajohn Center director Tim Putnam is spearheading the grant application effort, which is being made through the US Economic Development Administration’s “Build to Scale Venture Challenge Grant Program”.  “It’s highly competitive across the country. It really was started sometime last year when Tim watching a presentation from a gentleman that runs a non-profit and they had done several of these applications, worked with several cohort communities over the years. Usually they work with five or six communities every year, and each year they’ve gotten two or three of those grants through the process. We’re going for a $750,000 grant in this effort.”

The Clear Lake City Council Monday night approved providing matching funds of $60,000 to the project, while the Cerro Gordo County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved $90,000. The City Council in Mason City earlier this month approved a $150,000 allocation, while the NIACC Board of Directors has approved $150,000 plus an in-kind salary match for the Pappajohn Center staff of $296,000. 

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