Northeast Iowa RC&D was recently awarded a grant from the Arlin Falck Foundation to work with Winneshiek County Development and Tourism (WCDT) to identify a site for and to begin the development of a small business enterprise center in Winneshiek County. 

RC&D Small Business Consultant Josh Dansdill noted that “Enterprise centers are created to reduce overhead costs and investment risks associated with business start-ups. One large building is used to house several small businesses that share common space and/or equipment such as a loading dock, storage rooms, large freezers, kitchen equipment, internet, and other resources. We have seen this work in small rural communities in Wisconsin and Minnesota so we are excited to get working on this in Winneshiek County.” 

Stephanie Fromm, Executive Director for WCDT said, “We have been researching the idea of developing an enterprise center over the past year because we have so many entrepreneurs in Winneshiek County. We found that enterprise centers are typically developed and managed as a nonprofit or community-owned facility. In most cases, they not only provide affordable spaces and equipment for new or expanding businesses but they also provide technical assistance to entrepreneurs.” 

Dansdill, who is also a federal grant expert additionally noted that “Once established, an enterprise center, as a nonprofit, qualifies for state and federal grants to help purchase shared equipment and pay people to provide technical assistance to the entrepreneurs. The first step is talking to entrepreneurs and small business owners who are in need of more space or just starting out and are looking for space so we have created an online survey.” 

Dansdill encourages entrepreneurs and small business owners who are looking for space to start up or expand their business to take a few minutes to complete the online survey. He also noted that part of the process is to conduct an inventory of vacant or underutilized buildings to determine which would be best suited to an enterprise center. Property owners that have a building that is currently vacant or underutilized may contact either WCDT and the RC&D or complete an online survey.

Fromm, who noted that the project was also funded by the Depot Outlet said, “The Depot and Arlin Falk grants will allow the partners to explore a suitable site for the small business enterprise center within Winneshiek County and move forward with business plan development. 

“We know the RC&D has been considering the idea of an enterprise center for our region for a while, and we think it’s a good one,” Fromm said. “We are excited to start this project in Winneshiek County and begin the process to figure out where and how to pull everything together to maximize business development and expansion for our residents.”