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Economic Development Newswire Stories

CIRAS Supplier Scouting Helps Bring Business to Iowa

A Hiawatha-based assembly and supply chain integration company expects to see at least $5 million a year in new business after CIRAS facilitated a partnership with an air purification company.

World Class Industries started work in October under a contract that quickly will see the company producing 24,000 room-sized air purifiers annually for Timilon Acquisitions.

Reshoring Webinar on December 10

Offshoring your components can come with a great deal of cost and risk. This is true now more than ever in the middle of a pandemic. Iowa manufacturers understand the difficulties that can come with managing an unpredictable supply chain.

CIRAS would like to help. Together with the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the Iowa Area Development Group, the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, and the Greater Des Moines Partnership, we’re sponsoring a one-hour webinar on December 10 explaining the benefits of bringing your production home.

Reminder: New CIRAS Services Can Help you Handle COVID-19

April was a disruptive time for Iowa businesses, and the challenges are not yet finished.

CIRAS has been honored to play roles in many of your COVID-19 stories over the past month. We wanted to take this chance to remind you that we’re still here to help you as those stories continues to develop. CIRAS has added new services in recent weeks to help with your pandemic response and recovery needs, and, as a part of the MEP National Network, we’re offering our traditional services in new ways to help your company get through this disaster.

Iowa Manufacturers Respond to COVID-19; CIRAS Adapts to Assist

Thousands of face shields are scheduled to be delivered to Mary Greeley Medical Center this month as part of a CIRAS-coordinated effort to help Iowa manufacturers meet this state’s tremendous demand for personal protection equipment.

That’s just one of many instances where Iowa industry is coming together to overcome COVID-19.

CIRAS Launches New Web Page with Coronavirus Advice

Roughly one month after the outbreak of coronavirus began, authorities now estimate that more than 75,000 people have been infected and more than 2,000 are dead. Thousands of manufacturers across China have struggled to reopen after travel restrictions prevented employees from returning from Lunar New Year holiday. With work delays still uncertain, large sectors of the U.S. economy seem to be holding their collective breath waiting for additional shoes to drop. In manufacturing, the impacts to the complex global supply of parts are not fully understood, but the slowdown seems likely to impact the demand for U.S. products in China.

Five Ways CIRAS Can Help You Grow in 2020

New years bring a time for new beginnings. To quote Charles Kettering, an inventor and the head of research for General Motors from 1920 to 1947, “Every time you tear a leaf off a calendar, you present a new place for new ideas.”

If CIRAS is a new idea for you, then why not start the new year by considering a few new topics?

Here are five ways that CIRAS can help your company grow in 2020:

Grand Opening: Digital Manufacturing Lab powered by Alliant Energy

Dozens of Iowa manufacturers got their first glimpse of a path to new technologies on September 26, as CIRAS formally opened its new Digital Manufacturing Lab powered by Alliant Energy.
Representatives from CIRAS, Alliant Energy, and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) were joined by Iowa State University and Ames leaders for opening remarks and a tour.

Simply Soothing, Milkhouse Candles Light Wick on New Product

A popular Iowa-made brand of all-natural insect repellant now comes with a wick—thanks to a new union between two highly successful CIRAS clients.

Simply Soothing, the Columbus Junction maker of Bug Soother insect spray, launched a new line of 8-oz. candles this summer with help from Milkhouse Candle Company, a soy-based candle firm with factories in Osage and New Hampton.

The candles, which are being manufactured by Milkhouse but sold under the Bug Soother name, are the culmination of years of conversations between the two companies. It all began after Ryan Horgen, head of business development for Milkhouse, read an article on Simply Soothing in CIRAS News.

Cobot Unboxed

Here’s an update on the current state of the Digital Manufacturing Lab Powered by Alliant Energy.

ISBF and IEDA Help Iowa Facilities Managers get a CEM

One key step toward making Iowa buildings more energy efficient is to place them into the hands of people who know how to find savings. Toward that end, two CIRAS partners have joined forces to help Iowa companies interested in reducing their energy costs.

Grover Joins CIRAS to Oversee Digital Manufacturing Lab

Abhay Grover has joined CIRAS as a project manager focused on new technologies.

Cy-Hawk Partnership Helps TAP Extend Technology

Charles Romans sees tremendous possibility in the relationship he’s building with his counterparts on the other side of Iowa.

Romans is the 3D design prototype director for ProtoStudios, a University of Iowa rapid prototyping facility that’s part of the MERGE innovation lab in downtown Iowa City. Despite his black-and-gold employer, Romans and his staff have been working closely with CIRAS project manager Mark Williamson and Chris Hill, director of the CIRAS Technology Assistance Program (TAP), for more than a year as part of a joint effort to learn from each other and give taxpayers the maximum benefit from the equipment each agency controls.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!” Hill said with a chuckle. “It is possible for Hawkeyes and Cyclones to work together.”

Tortilleria Sonora Steps Out on Path to Food Safety Certification

Life began moving faster after Betty Garcia got the phone call.

It was the fall of 2017, and a Des Moines-area produce company was planning to launch a line of ready-to-eat meals. The company was wondering whether Tortilleria Sonora would be interested in supplying tortillas. First, there were a few questions about the business. Would Garcia mind filling out a questionnaire?

CIRAS Will Help You Get Ready for the “Future of Manufacturing”

CIRAS is on a journey to help Iowa manufacturers discover and implement the future of manufacturing.

Birmingham Manufacturing gets Reawakened to the Value of Innovation

Michael Nunn hasn’t yet found the product improvement idea he was searching for, but at least he now knows that he’s on the correct path.

Nunn is the owner of Birmingham Manufacturing, a four-person shop in Birmingham, Iowa, that makes condensated evaporating pans for use in commercial coolers. The pans, which contain a heating element and sit below refrigeration units, work to evaporate the water that drips from inside coolers.

Artistic Manufacturing—A Business Bringing New Ideas to Church

The shelves in Randy Monk’s Altoona, Iowa, office are lined with the artifacts of decades past. At one corner sits a stack of the stamped metal ashtrays Artistic Manufacturing Corporation once produced as a sideline. A few feet to the right, you’ll find one of the small, decorative metal pots that the company made and sold to florist shops until the 1960s. In between those historical outposts sit older versions of the crosses, cups, and communion plates that have been the bulk of Artistic’s sales for more than 50 years.

Our Third Annual All-Iowa Holiday Gift List

Every year around this time, we like to take a minute to remind everybody that we make great things here in Iowa.

Legacy Manufacturing Reshores Jobs Using Robot Turntable

Legacy Manufacturing in Marion has added seven new employees (with at least three more coming soon) after a CIRAS-assisted automation program helped the company reshore production of one of its most popular products.

Cox Honored for “Achievement in Economic Development”

CIRAS Director Ron Cox was one 15 College of Engineering faculty and staff who received Iowa State University’s highest honors during an annual awards ceremony on September 14.

Blue-9 Celebrates One-year Anniversary of New Iowa Headquarters

A small Maquoketa company that sells dog training equipment around the world is boosting production and expanding its product offerings—all after CIRAS helped the company arrange important testing and other steps to get it off the ground.

American Power Systems Energizes Its Export Business

A Davenport manufacturer of alternators and other electrical equipment for specialty vehicles expects to more than double the amount it sells overseas within the next three years.

Officials at American Power Systems Inc. predict the company will at least double its current six-figure export sales once it fully implements everything leaders learned during a CIRAS-driven class presented via the Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub.

With Service Bureaus Coming, Is Iowa at an Additive Manufacturing Inflection Point?

Dennis Fogle believes the dawn is coming for his industry in Iowa.

“We’re right on the edge,” said Fogle, general manager of Agile Additive Manufacturing Ltd. in Pella. “It’s just over the hill. . . . I think we just need a little bit more education here.”

Agile, a recently formed offshoot of Canada’s largest 3D printing service bureau, opened in Iowa last year in preparation for an expected wave in the use of 3D printing in Iowa manufacturing. Several other Iowa companies likewise have been formed over the last two years with a business plan that involves designing and/or 3D printing products for others. All report more fervent interest in the technology.

Planning Continues to Bring About ‘Year of Manufacturing’ Industry Expansion

Industry experts from around the state are developing a detailed plan for growing Iowa manufacturing—with CIRAS slated to play a leading role both in the plan’s design and its implementation.

The ongoing effort stems from 2017’s governor’s Year of Manufacturing initiative, which charged the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the Iowa Innovation Council (IIC) with finding ways to increase a $29 billion  manufacturing gross domestic product to $32 billion by 2022.

IMPACT: CIRAS and its Partners Sparked Improvement by the Billions

CIRAS projects have a big impact on Iowa and its communities.

Over the last five years, we’ve helped Iowa companies invest, expand sales and avoid costs to the tune of more than $2 billion.

WORKFORCE PIPELINE: CIRAS Helps Companies Find Solutions

CIRAS projects have a big impact on Iowa and its communities.

One of the things we do is to help companies find their way around a scarcity of workers. Sometimes, that means helping them reach out to graduating students:

CONNECTIONS: CIRAS Helps Iowa Companies Find Answers

CIRAS projects have a big impact on Iowa and its communities.

For example, our latest edition of CIRAS News took a look at the breadth of who we’ve helped over the past five years:

JOBS: CIRAS help Iowa Companies Continue as Good Employers

CIRAS projects have a big impact on Iowa and its communities.

For example, our latest edition of CIRAS News took a look at how we’ve affected employment over the past five years:

Season’s Greetings from CIRAS

Hope you and yours have a joyous holiday season. Here’s a message from our director:

CIRAS’ Second Annual Iowa Holiday Gift Guide

We make some really cool things in Iowa.

Most of them (like a robotic system from Acieta) aren’t very practical gifts. But when you produce as much as we do here in Iowa, there are tons of great gifts.

Cox, O’Donnell jointly named “Manufacturing Champions”

CIRAS’ top two administrators have been honored by the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI) for their work trumpeting Iowa manufacturing.

CIRAS Director Ron Cox and program director Mike O’Donnell, head of CIRAS’ Manufacturing Extension Partnership, jointly received ABI’s Manufacturing Champion Award at a dinner for Iowa business leaders on Tuesday.

Engineering Capstone Projects Lead to Innovative New Products

Two Iowa companies over the past year have separately discovered a new way to safeguard vibrating truck fenders and a new, more attractive way to lock patio doors—both as a result of work done by graduating students at Iowa State University.

Capstone students in Iowa State’s College of Engineering worked on the truck fender project for Link Manufacturing, a Sioux Center company that manufactures heavy-duty truck suspensions. The company asked students to extend the life of after-market fender brackets that sometimes were breaking because of vibration.

State of the State: Looking for Clues to Competitiveness in Iowa’s Manufacturing Wages

Wage levels both reflect and influence the competitiveness of Iowa’s manufacturing sector. The average manufacturing worker in Iowa earned $42,470 in 2015, about 86 percent of the national average. Accounting for Iowa’s lower cost of living improves the picture, boosting the state’s pay on a price parity basis to 95 percent of the U.S. average.

The pay differential* for Iowa’s manufacturing workers varies by the type of work they perform. Iowa’s average production worker, for example, earns 104 percent of the average U.S. production worker’s wage. Iowa‘s engineering-related workers average just 90 cents for every dollar earned by their national peers.

This article demonstrates how closer attention to wage distributions might inform the state’s innovation and workforce attraction/retention efforts. For our example, we classify Iowa and U.S. manufacturing jobs along two dimensions: occupation and inferred skill or experience level. Nine occupational groups are considered, which together account for 95 percent of all manufacturing jobs.

Iowa Program Helps Companies Afford Some Added Expertise—By Adding Interns

Interns at ALMACO get much more than an overview of the company’s custom-built agricultural equipment. They become part of the team.

Brian Carr, ALMACO’s vice president of engineering, said student employees at the Nevada-based company get directly involved in completing projects—from initial design, through problem-solving challenges, to the eventual result.

 Gross-Wen Technologies: Using Algae to Clean City Sewage

A pioneering enterprise formed to treat municipal and industrial wastewater with algae hopes to launch into large-scale operation this summer with construction of its first functional, city-sized test facility in Dallas Center, Iowa.

Gross-Wen Technologies, a company launched by Iowa State University researcher Martin Gross and professor Zhiyou Wen, has been working for roughly two years on plans to turn its discoveries into a two-pronged business. The Gross-Wen approach uses tanks of wastewater, vertical conveyor belts, and a special biofilm to grow and harvest the algae. Once water treatment is complete, the algae can be scraped off the belts and sold as a fertilizer, effectively subsidizing the cost of running a large-scale treatment system.7

Iowa Officially Launches Year of Manufacturing

 Former Gov. Terry Branstad, Governor Kim Reynolds and a host of other Iowa governmental and business leaders recently unveiled a plan to boost Iowa factories during a “Year of Manufacturing.”

The Year of Manufacturing initiative, which was announced in January during Branstad’s Condition of the State address, is designed to be a 12-month, concentrated focus on improving Iowa’s manufacturing Gross Domestic Product. Led by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI) and CIRAS, business leaders plan to fan out across the state to visit with companies and make certain that each firm is aware of the resources available to help them improve.

For Success,“Future of Manufacturing” includes Understanding 3D Printing

Iowa industry professionals have the chance to get a close-up peak at cutting-edge technology next month when CIRAS hosts a daylong event on “3D Printing’s Current and Future Impacts on Manufacturing.”

The June 8 event in Ames is intended to explain how this disruptive technology has evolved from its initial use as a prototyping process and how it’s likely to drive change in your business.

Iowa’s Governor Officially Launches ‘Year of Manufacturing’ Initiative

 Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds and a host of other Iowa governmental and business leaders have unveiled a plan to boost Iowa factories during a “Year of Manufacturing.”

The Year of Manufacturing initiative, which was announced in January during Branstad’s Condition of the State address, is designed to be a 12-month, concentrated focus on improving Iowa’s manufacturing Gross Domestic Product. Led by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI) and CIRAS, business leaders plan to fan out across the state to visit with companies and make certain that each firm is aware of the resources available to help them improve.

CIRAS, IADG Testing New Way to Expand Industry in Iowa

 A 40,000-square-foot building on a nine-acre industrial site in eastern Spencer, Iowa, has become the testing ground for a new initiative in rural economic development—with CIRAS playing a large role.

CIRAS Service Highlight: Growth

You hear it a lot around Iowa:  

      “I want to double in size in the next 5 years.” 

     “I just need one new OEM customer.”     

Health Insurance—A Prescription for Fear among Iowa Manufacturers

Iowa manufacturers’ single largest fear, according to a CIRAS survey, is the looming cost of employee health care. And the worry appears to be well placed.

“If you are a private employer in Iowa, you have reason to be concerned,” said Mark Becker, a Johnston-based employer benefits consultant. “There are far more questions than answers right now. On large insurance, there’s really no place to run.”

Snapshot of Iowa’s Professional and Business Services Sector

[ONE OF CIRAS’ REGULAR LOOKS AT A SECTOR OF THE IOWA ECONOMY. (By Liesl Eathington)]

CIRAS has Economic Impact of $424 million for 2015; $2 Billion over five years

AMES, Iowa  –  The numbers are in, and they continue to show a strong value received by Iowa businesses who have built a relationship with Iowa State University.

Upper Iowa Tool & Die Adds Innovation — One Layer at a Time

A Cresco tool-and-die maker’s search for diversification has led the company, with CIRAS’ help, to stake out new territory as what may be the first Iowa business of its kind to produce parts for customers via additive manufacturing.

Upper Iowa Tool & Die & Innovations, founded in 1978, purchased a new plastic-based 3-D printer earlier this year after conversations with CIRAS convinced the company to aim higher in its search for a way to differentiate from competitors. Since mid-April, Upper Iowa has been pitching its additive manufacturing capability both to new clients and as an add-on for services to existing customers.

State of the State – by Liesl Eathington

No discussion of Iowa’s workforce is complete without acknowledging the intense competition for workers among Iowa communities. As the state’s industrial structure diversifies, its occupational mix diversifies as well. That translates, in some communities, to a shrinking pool of available workers for manufacturing firms and other companies with specialized needs. Employers in small communities, drawing … Continue reading State of the State – by Liesl Eathington

Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub = Outreach with a Plan

Curt Burnett sees his job two ways: he is both the pilot of a “connection machine” and a regional navigator, charting a long-range course toward the future for Quad Cities manufacturing.

The complicated part is that Burnett, executive director of the relatively new Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub, is doing both things while the machine is still being built.

CIRAS Officially Cuts the Ribbon on its new Metal 3-D Printer

The future of manufacturing officially opened for business last week (at least symbolically) when Iowa State University College of Engineering Dean Sarah Rajala used a set of 3-D-printed scissors to cut the ribbon on CIRAS’ new metal laser sintering machine.

ICYM THE PRESS RELEASE: Iowa Area Development Groups Honored with USDA National Award

WASHINGTON D.C., November 5, 2015 – Iowa Area Development Group (IADG) received the USDA Abraham Lincoln Honor Award at a ceremony held today in Washington D.C. IADG was honored for expanding rural economic development opportunities in Iowa and across the nation by being a national advocate of USDA’s Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDL&G) Program, as well as other contributions and accomplishments of its rural sponsored economic development mission.  

Accumold Proves Proficiency, Wins Business Thanks to CIRAS-arranged Tests

An Ankeny-based plastics injection molder landed new business and launched new growth after the firm was able to prove its capabilities via testing arranged last year at Iowa State University.

Accumold, a company that makes small plastic parts for a variety of technology and medical devices, announced plans in February for a $12 million expansion that will add 200 jobs at its Ankeny plant over the next three years.

Expansion at ISU Research Park will Create Economic Development Hub

This time next year, CIRAS expects to be settling into brand new offices at the Iowa State University Research Park in a new building that will, for the first time, pull together most of Iowa State’s economic development services into a single location.

The new building, to be known as the Iowa State University Economic Development Core Facility, will anchor an area called “Hub Square”—the new main gathering space for the 400-acre research park.

CIRAS-Sparked Group Holding First Forum for Discussing Sustainable Businesses in Iowa

Four Iowa corporations have joined forces with CIRAS to create the Iowa Sustainable Business Forum (ISBF)—a new nonprofit organization that will be dedicated to improving businesses while boosting environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

CIRAS NEWS: Friday, May 22, 2015

Happy Friday. Ready for the holiday? We suggest you avoid any new projects this morning and instead spend today catching up on a few days’ worth of industry news.

Here’s what you might learn while trying hard to look busy:

CIRAS Innovation Service Cuts Costs, Boosts Business for Iowa Spring

An Adel-based manufacturer of springs for garage doors and agricultural equipment cut its costs by more than 30 percent and expects to boost sales by more than $1 million after adopting an innovative new technology that it tested as part of a CIRAS innovation service.

FYI: Friday, January 9, 2015

Happy Frozen Friday. (That’s a temperature-in-our-communications-office reference, not notice of a particular Disney-themed day at ISU.)

One of the things we hope to do with the CIRAS Newswire is make you more aware of interesting stories out there that impact industry or that you might have missed.

Here’s what we declare to be interesting today:

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