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Iowa Innovation Council approves strategic plan


With new Iowa Economic Development Director Debi Durham on hand, the Iowa Innovation Council approved its strategic plan last week.

Durham, named to the position by Gov. Terry Branstad, came to the meeting after last Friday’s inauguration to get a first look at one of the key groups she hopes to utilize. Her reaction upon looking around the table at the 29-member board: “Impressive.”

She then took the opportunity to speak to the group for the first time.

“The big question is where is this new administration going? I think you’re going to be really, really pleased with what you see,” she told the council. “First and foremost, you have a governor who understands economic development. … He is going to be very supportive. It is the cornerstone of his campaign.”

The Iowa Innovation Council was developed by the Legislature to coordinate economic development efforts for the state’s three targeted industries of advanced manufacturing, bio-sciences and financial services, and held its first meeting in July. Things are changing with the new administration, as the Iowa Department of Economic Development will be reorganized into a public-private Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress, but Durham told the Business Record earlier this month that she was supportive of the Innovation Council, something she reiterated last week.

With the changes, Durham said she’ll take the opportunity to “really evaluate what makes sense.”

“Then we’ll come back to the Legislature and say, ‘Get rid of these. We don’t need them; we don’t want them. Here’s what we do need,’” she said.

The council approved its strategic plan, which will be turned into a more specific operating plan in the spring. The council also laid out its vision, long-term goals, key objectives and strategies. Highlights include:

• The council has goals of increasing new companies formed in Iowa and growth in existing companies, and increasing employment and private research in targeted industries.

• The council wants to establish a fund to make resources available to entrepreneurs and small start-up companies.

• The council wants to develop plans to accelerate technology transfer and commercialization of university and college research.

• A big part of the strategy is to develop relationships with the Branstad administration and other partner organizations, such as the Iowa Board of Regents and the Iowa Business Council.

• The council will ask the Legislature to allow it to become a not-for-profit corporation.

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