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UNI Regional Business Center to aid rural businesses

Contact: 

Maureen Collins-Williams, director, UNI Regional Business Center, (319) 236-8123
James O'Connor, University Marketing & Public Relations, (319) 273-2761

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- The University of Northern Iowa's Regional Business Center (RBC) will launch a Rural Business Accelerator program in northeast Iowa this fall.

According to Maureen Collins-Williams, RBC director, the new program will use high-tech teaching and mentoring methods to provide customized training for entrepreneurs in Allamakee, Butler, Buchanan and Fayette counties.

'The goal is to increase the number and quality of entrepreneurs in rural Iowa, including women and minorities who are underrepresented in Iowa business,' said Collins-Williams.

The rural accelerator will be a prototype for technology-based distance learning projects serving rural communities. It will launch in fall 2002 in West Union and Independence, and during spring 2003 in Postville and Parkersburg. Collins-Williams plans to serve 66 companies during the next 18 months, creating as many as 231 new jobs.

The program has three components: 1) an on-site, county-based, customized training program to launch new ventures or grow existing business in rural communities; 2) an Internet-based virtual accelerator program that will pair certified business consultants with rural entrepreneurs; and 3) an Internet-driven learning network connecting rural entrepreneurs throughout the state.

The program is funded by an approximately $200,000 grant to the Iowa Northland Region Council of Governments from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Business Enterprise Grant program.

Located in downtown Waterloo, the UNI RBC has an on-site business accelerator that serves the greater Waterloo-Cedar Falls area. The Waterloo accelerator is full but has a waiting list for businesses interested in the program. For more information, contact Collins-Williams at (319) 236-8123 or toll-free at (888) 237-8124, or visit www.unirbc.org.