The Midwest Partnership Economic Development Corporation is collaborating with the University of Northern Iowa’s Business & Community Services (UNI) to pilot a new approach for expressing the region’s appreciation for small business owners while also identifying opportunities to help businesses succeed. The two organizations are working to create a Small Business Visit Blitz program, as an extension of Midwest Partnership’s existing business retention and expansion efforts, and UNI’s Regional Entrepreneurship Project. The pilot program was first launched in Panora on July 25th and a second blitz occurred September 22nd in Adair, Casey, and Menlo. The next Small Business Visit Blitz will take place on November 16th and 17th in the communities of Bridgewater, Fontanelle, Greenfield, and Orient.
The Blitz will involve Midwest Partnership staff, volunteers and UNI team members dropping by small to midsized business to thank business owners for their dedication, effort, investment and contribution to the area economy. Sarah Gomez, Executive Director of the Midwest Partnership, explains that small businesses are the foundation of the regions’ jobs and economic wellbeing. Our business owners spend sleepless nights and shed blood, sweat and tears to start, operate and grow their businesses,” said Gomez. “The Blitz is our effort to learn about these businesses and what makes them successful.” The Blitz will involve volunteers dropping by businesses Friday, November 17th, to share a brief thank you and asking owners to complete a survey.
Similar business retention and expansion (BRE) survey efforts occur for larger businesses in almost every community in Iowa, including Midwest Partnership’s four county region. Most BRE surveys are designed to identify the red flags, growth opportunities and community issues affecting medium to large employers. Regional and statewide service providers then rally around the needs of individual businesses. Andrew Conrad, Director of UNI’s Institute for Decision Making, notes that small businesses, retail establishments and start-ups are seldom included in economic development BRE efforts due to the sheer number of businesses and the capacity of organizations and volunteers. “The survey included in the Blitz is a unique approach to including smaller, locally owned businesses in the BRE process. Once specific needs are identified through the survey, small business development centers, community colleges, utility providers, the cities, universities and others will partner with Midwest Partnership to provide assistance,” said Conrad.
“It is always exciting to be able to say ‘we are the first’ at doing something,” states Gomez. “We have a great team working on this pilot program and I would expect other regions to follow suit in partnering with UNI for similar programs, just as we plan to eventually roll out the program on a larger scale for our region.”