We believe that in order for a community’s entrepreneurial ecosystem to thrive, it needs to have strong programs supporting entrepreneurs, tech education, and innovation.
Is There Enough Opportunity in Our Communities?
In 2021, NewBoCo invited economic developers from all over the state to join us for a roundtable discussion about Iowa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. In addition to identifying pain points and considering solutions, attendees also participated in NewBoCo’s Iowa Ecosystem Opportunity survey. The survey asked questions about each community’s efforts in entrepreneurship, tech education, and innovation and the available funding, prioritization, and importance of these areas for each region. The results, while enlightening, were concerning. The average self-reported score for overall ecosystem health in all areas was under 50%, and many areas scored significantly lower.
To put it simply, most communities in Iowa do not have the density or capacity to build programming like NewBoCo’s on their own. The overhead cost to implement this kind of programming all at once is not something that a smaller community can absorb. However, economic development organizations in these communities have expert knowledge and access that cannot be replaced by an outside organization coming into the ecosystem.
That’s why NewBoCo is partnering with economic development organizations in select communities around Iowa to launch our Community Partners Pilot Program. We will collaborate with partner organizations to fill gaps in their local entrepreneurial ecosystem by combining NewBoCo programming, resources, and lessons learned with each local community’s experience, partnerships, and resources.
Community Partners Pilot Program
The Community Partners Pilot program is a partnership between NewBoCo and economic development organizations in 2 Iowa communities: the NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center in Mason City, and Uptown CELL (a Mount Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce program) and Traction STEAM Coworking in Mount Pleasant. We chose Mason City and Mount Pleasant as pilot communities not only for their initial interest, but also because they represent different sizes and structures of communities in our state.
We’re also proud to announce Council Bluffs is joining our Community Partners Program!
Each partnership will take shape around a foundation of established NewBoCo programming. We have been developing and extensively testing this programming over the past 8 years, so we have seen its power to strengthen entrepreneurial, educational, and innovation ecosystems. Informed by NewBoCo’s values and experiences, our programming addresses 4 focus areas that we believe are critical to a community’s success:
- Entrepreneurship: programs providing mentorship, community, and access to capital for entrepreneurs with businesses of a variety of industries and sizes
- Tech Education: programs providing technical skill training for adults, youth, and teachers
- Innovation Services: programs providing training on NewBoCo’s four areas of innovation (Agile, Methods, Culture, and Strategy)
- NewBoCo Studios: access to services that may or may not currently exist within a local community
- Services examples: software development, digital marketing services, and branding and graphic design
Each partner community selects programming in at least 2 focus areas to bring to their region. Of course, we understand there is no one-size-fits-all approach that works in every community, so every community partnership looks different. Community partners provide their unique access, insights, and resources, while NewBoCo provides programming frameworks and ongoing analysis and support. We believe that this holistic, yet localized approach to entrepreneurial ecosystem development is necessary for greater equity, innovation, and prosperity in entrepreneurship in Iowa.
Collaboration, Not Competition
Collaboration is one of our highest values (it’s right in our name, after all), and it doesn’t end with economic development organizations. We also work closely with service providers in each of our partner communities as well as many of our longstanding partners. We are committed to ensuring that small businesses receiving support as a part of our Community Partners Program have the best possible chance at success.
Our partners have to share our commitment to supporting these entrepreneurs and strengthening their local entrepreneurial ecosystems. This is top of mind when we vet our partners. We evaluate their histories with the entrepreneurial community and have conversations with their leadership about their commitment to this work in the future.
All of our partners are deeply invested in Iowa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, and all have experience working with startups and small businesses. Many of our partners have worked with us for years. And each year, we mutually evaluate our partnerships to decide whether or not we should continue to partner. Some of our long-standing partners include:
Interested in Partnering?
Do you represent an Iowa community development organization? Are you a business leader deeply invested in your community? Do you see potential for the growth of your community’s entrepreneurial ecosystem?
Please reach out to us! We’d love to have a conversation with you or your community’s representatives!