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Values Fund approves $17 million


The Grow Iowa Values Fund board last Thursday approved nearly $17 million in funding to six technology companies, five of them in the biosciences arena, in what Gov. Tom Vilsack billed as the “biggest day for economic development in the state’s history.”

Also on Thursday, the Iowa Department of Economic Development board approved more than $1 million in funding for 22 other projects, which together with the Values Fund projects will result in the state creating or retaining an estimated 1,740 jobs, with additional capital investment of more than $426 million. The Values Fund project awards were all made to existing Iowa companies, which are working on projects as sweeping as a cancer vaccine, a breakthrough in the precision genetic engineering of crops, and a technology that will result in construction in Iowa of the country’s largest yeast production plant.

Established last year by the Legislature, the Values Fund board has now approved nearly $54 million in grants or loans to 11 companies. In all but one case, the funds were used to assist in the expansion or retention of companies already located in Iowa, rather than bringing new companies into the state. Last week’s announcement of projects from across the state by Vilsack and economic development officials was designed to garner support for the Values Fund from legislators and allay concerns that the fund is primarily benefiting Central Iowa companies.

Two Central Iowa companies, however, were among the largest recipients in this round. NewLink Genetics and Phytodyne Inc., both of Ames, received $6 million and $5 million, respectively. NewLink, which is embarking on a $186 million expansion project, recently received regulatory approval for a lung cancer vaccine, and is nearing clinical trials for a breast cancer vaccine. Phytodyne plans to use its funding to commercialize its Gene Editor, a technology that allows precision editing of specific genes to alter the characteristics of crops.

Red Star Yeast Co. of Cedar Rapids, which received $500,000, plans to build a $50 million yeast production plant that will use corn syrup to produce a high-quality yeast.

Other companies receiving Values Fund dollars last week include Integrated DNA Technologies, Coralville, $6 million; NovaScan Technologies of Ames, $200,000; and McKesson Corp. of Dubuque, $298,000.

The IDED board approved more than $1.5 million in funding requests through various loan and grant programs, with most of the requests being in the $50,000 to $100,000 range. Among the Central Iowa companies that receiving funding were Computility, DNA Today, Web Interactive Solutions, Viable Technologies, Micoy Corp. and Spot Trac, all from Des Moines; and Ensoft and MagnaLynx, which are both based in Ames.      

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