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Did You Know?” The SBA Has Expanded WOSB NAICS Codes

By Samantha Ferm If you’re a Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) and have applied for the SBA’s WOSB certification in the past, you might have been aware of the odd requirement a limited number of NAICS codes were even applicable to be considered as a ‘woman-owned small business.’ This eliminated hundreds of possible NAICS codes across … Continue reading Did You Know?” The SBA Has Expanded WOSB NAICS Codes

Did You Know? The SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program

By: Justin Niceswanger In past years, federal agencies have established contracting goals to award at least 5% of their prime contract spend to small disadvantaged businesses.  In December of last year, the Biden Administration announced the goal would substantially increase. How much was the increase?  Can your company qualify as a small disadvantaged business, and … Continue reading Did You Know? The SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program

The Powertrain Supply Chain is Transforming. Are you ready?

We’re at a rare inflection point that will change the landscape of American manufacturing over the next 50 years: the transition from internal combustion engines to electrified motors in vehicles. As the automotive industry transforms, very few hardware manufacturers will be unaffected. In 2016, just under 300,000 electrified (battery, plug-in, and hybrid) vehicles were produced … Continue reading The Powertrain Supply Chain is Transforming. Are you ready?

Innovation at Work: Strengthening Iowa Communities

Innovation At Work is a series of stories, photos, videos and audio highlighting the new approaches Iowa State University is taking to big challenges that affect Iowa’s communities and landscape. A new entry in the series will be published every Tuesday between April 5 and May 3. To learn more about the impact CIRAS and … Continue reading Innovation at Work: Strengthening Iowa Communities

Participation Soars at Virtual Boot Camp

Manufacturers agree that a robust marketing plan plays a strategic role in their short- and long-term growth objectives. But finding time to develop or update a plan can be challenging. So to make marketing content more accessible, CIRAS offers on-demand training using recordings from its successful Digital Marketing Strategy Boot Camp series. “I’d talk to … Continue reading Participation Soars at Virtual Boot Camp

Did You Know? The GovCon World is Ever-Changing

By Jodi Essex We’ve seen so many changes in the government contracting world in the past year it’s difficult to keep it all straight.  Here’s a quick recap of the changes that are happening or are in the works: CMMC / Cybersecurity The government has now introduced a less burdensome version of the Cybersecurity Maturity … Continue reading Did You Know? The GovCon World is Ever-Changing

Connecting with Government Buyers

Selling your products or services to government agencies begins with building a network of potential buyers. CIRAS can help with that with “Meet the Buyers” events that offer opportunities for both sides of the government procurement process to learn about each other. Government procurement officials and federal prime contractors will describe what they buy and … Continue reading Connecting with Government Buyers

Company Gets VA Certification in Record Time

An Anamosa company is better positioned to compete for government work after connecting with Julie Fagle, a government contracting specialist with the CIRAS Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). Gregory Husmann, of Husmann Development Inc., reached out to Fagle late last spring for assistance with a bid on a new Veteran Affairs (VA) clinic. Husmann is … Continue reading Company Gets VA Certification in Record Time

Manufacturer Gets Help Navigating New Bid Process

A Cherokee manufacturer has utilized their ongoing relationship with CIRAS to understand a new bid process, expand its list of potential customers, and learn how to certify its cybersecurity protocols. Bob Simonsen, marketing manager at RJ Thomas Manufacturing, recently contacted CIRAS Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) government contracting specialist Mary Zimmerman for assistance with a … Continue reading Manufacturer Gets Help Navigating New Bid Process

Sales Grow After Rethinking Supply Chain Costs

Fox River produces high-performance socks at a plant in Osage. The company has increased sales, invested in new equipment, and added jobs since implementing a new sales approach based on a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) model. The Osage manufacturer has seen revenues increase by $1.5 million since updating their sales approach with a TCO … Continue reading Sales Grow After Rethinking Supply Chain Costs

Growing in a Labor Shortage

By Ron Cox Iowa is one of the best states in the country at leveraging our workforce population. We have historically low unemployment (4th best over three decades) and historically high labor force participation rates (5th best). Iowans’ willingness to work is a great state strength, yet we continue to have labor force shortages that … Continue reading Growing in a Labor Shortage

Did You Know? New SBA Business Size Standards Rule

By: Mary Zimmerman Certain government programs, such as Small Business Administration (SBA) loan programs and contracting opportunities, are reserved for small businesses. To qualify, businesses must satisfy the SBA’s definition of a small business concern, along with the size standards for  small business. SBA sets the size standards for businesses by industry using either revenue … Continue reading Did You Know? New SBA Business Size Standards Rule

Prepare for Government Contracting in 2022 with Your PTAC Counselor

By Samantha Ferm There’s no better time than the start of a new year to connect with your PTAC counselor and do an audit of your goals with government contracting….and we are here to help! One thing I love to do for clients is simply work with them in updating a free market research report, … Continue reading Prepare for Government Contracting in 2022 with Your PTAC Counselor

Marketwise Helps Leaders Face Challenges Together

A networking group launched seven years ago by the Iowa Association of Business and Industry in partnership with CIRAS continues to help its members learn from people who do the same work they do. MarketWise provides marketing and sales leaders opportunities to expand their skills through education, shared experiences, and best practices with their peers. … Continue reading Marketwise Helps Leaders Face Challenges Together

Did you know? There is a Resource Available to Help You Understand Doing Business with Other States

By Julie Fagle In recent weeks we have been discussing doing business with state/local Governments, some specific options for the surrounding states including their direct websites, as well as the relationship driven nature of marketing and contracting with these organizations.  There is also a resource available to help you develop these potential customers even further … Continue reading Did you know? There is a Resource Available to Help You Understand Doing Business with Other States

2021 DBE Conference Debrief

A conference focused on connecting Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) with numerous resource partners was held November 3 in Des Moines. The well-attended event provided opportunities for businesses to learn best practices, meet and identify potential business partners, increase their business exposure with other DBE companies, and collaborate with other contractors. CIRAS partnered with the Iowa … Continue reading 2021 DBE Conference Debrief

CIRAS Expands Supplier Scouting Capabilities through IEDA Partnership

By Melissa Burant The risks of having a global supply chain have never been more apparent. Severe weather events, the pandemic, and geopolitical issues have disrupted the global supply chain. The impacts of this are felt by every Iowa manufacturer. Finding new suppliers, especially local ones, is hard. A Google search is a great starting … Continue reading CIRAS Expands Supplier Scouting Capabilities through IEDA Partnership

Grant Paves Way for Businesses to Compete for DOT Work

CIRAS has received an Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) grant to help prepare disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) to compete for highway construction projects and other DOT-funded work. This $133,000 DBE Support Services grant will fund CIRAS staff to offer one-on-one assistance to DBEs, which are generally defined as small businesses that are 51 percent or … Continue reading Grant Paves Way for Businesses to Compete for DOT Work

Deco Products Uses CIRAS Team to Tackle Internet Marketing

A Decorah manufacturer of precision zinc die castings expects to see more than a $1 million increase in sales thanks to work by CIRAS to help the company improve its internet marketing. Dave Magner, director of sales and marketing for Deco Products Company in Decorah, said his company first turned to CIRAS about five years … Continue reading Deco Products Uses CIRAS Team to Tackle Internet Marketing

CIRAS Helps Appraiser Get First-ever Government Contract

A Windsor Heights real estate appraisal company was awarded its first-ever government contract last February after reaching out to CIRAS for assistance with the process. Neilly & Company Real Estate Appraisals received $3,900 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to determine the value of a facility located in Jefferson. Justin Niceswanger, a government contracting specialist … Continue reading CIRAS Helps Appraiser Get First-ever Government Contract

COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan

If you are a small business, nonprofit organization of any size, or a U.S. agricultural business with 500 or fewer employees that has suffered substantial economic injury as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, you can apply for the SBA’s COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL).  This loan provides economic relief to small businesses and nonprofit organizations that are … Continue reading COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan

Pareti Mobile Walls Builds Business with BidMatch

A Belle Plaine, Iowa, maker of display panel walls is looking forward to a record year after CIRAS helped the company find more than $130,000 in government contracts through its BidMatch computer service.   Kathy Kyle, owner of Pareti Mobile Walls, credits Julie Fagle, a government contracting specialist with the CIRAS Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), for helping her company rebound after … Continue reading Pareti Mobile Walls Builds Business with BidMatch

Hogan Company LLC Gets Leg Up on Government Contracting with CIRAS Help

A new Dyersville concrete construction company landed four government contracts during its first few months of operation and began mapping a path to more ambitious efforts after working with a CIRAS government contracting specialist.  Hogan Company LLC opened its doors in early 2021 and found its way to CIRAS through the SBA–Small Business Development Center. … Continue reading Hogan Company LLC Gets Leg Up on Government Contracting with CIRAS Help

Cybersecurity Is Necessary to Secure Growth

By Jodi Essex Are you still ignoring the word “cybersecurity”? You can’t any longer.  As security breaches continue to occur in industries across the country, the need to assess your company’s level of security becomes increasingly important. Many businesses wonder where to begin with such an assessment, and this is where CIRAS can help.  Our cybersecurity … Continue reading Cybersecurity Is Necessary to Secure Growth

Aerial Services Finds Powerful Partner in CIRAS Advisor

A Cedar Falls mapping and imagery company has used valuable support from CIRAS to garner more than $11 million in government contracts over the past five years.  Aerial Services Inc. is a veteran-owned small business that provides companies and governments with a wide range of services, including aerial LiDAR, digital orthoimagery, and comprehensive mapping solutions.  Ryan Kibsgaard, … Continue reading Aerial Services Finds Powerful Partner in CIRAS Advisor

CIRAS Points Graziano Brothers to New Future

Toward the back of a long, narrow office, tucked away in a storefront that has been a south Des Moines landmark for more than 107 years, Frances Graziano sat behind a paperwork-laden desk last September and chuckled.

Was she scared? Absolutely.

“It’s terrifying,” said Graziano, president and CEO of the Graziano Brothers food company. “It’s absolutely terrifying. Is the product going to work? Do we have everything in place? Are we going to have a handle on the quality control? Is there going to be a market for our product outside of its current geographic area?”

Early this year, for the first time since 1912, the manufacture of Graziano Brothers sausage took place somewhere outside the small brick building on South Union Street. The change, which followed roughly 18 months of planning and preparation alongside CIRAS experts, is part of a broad, multistep plan to breathe new life into a historic family business and position it for a much longer future.

Planning for Future at Tiefenthaler Quality Meats

It all started roughly 38 years ago, when John Tiefenthaler needed a job to take part in a high school vocational program. Tiefenthaler, then 18, visited the local Holstein, Iowa, meat locker. Uncertain how to act, he clumsily introduced himself and assumed that somebody would call him later. When no one did, he eventually admitted … Continue reading Planning for Future at Tiefenthaler Quality Meats

Cobots Proving to Be a Smart Choice at Metalcraft

There are many reasons Iowa manufacturers come to Ramco Innovations looking for automation.

“Certainly, a lot of it is that it’s hard to fill a lot of positions these days,” said Joe Stoltz, vice president of technology for the West Des Moines company. “And once you find people, it’s hard to keep them doing a repetitive job.”

So how do you get more work done without adding staff? The correct technological solution for any particular company depends on exactly what you need machines to do. But Iowa manufacturers can’t answer those questions until they understand their options.

SmithCo Sees Growth Ahead After CIRAS Helped Company Prepare

A Le Mars manufacturer of side-dumping truck trailers believes his business is on the road to steady growth after CIRAS helped improve the company’s management structure and confirm that its marketing is on the correct path.

SmithCo Manufacturing Inc. was founded in 1994 to make side-dump trailers for the construction industry. Change loomed, however, as the company entered its third decade. SmithCo, long popular in construction, agriculture, and municipal waste hauling, had discovered a lucrative new market in the mining industry. But could the business handle it? Operations manager Scott Lovell saw the potential for enormous growth over the horizon, and he wanted to make sure his company was ready.

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.

Polo Custom Products—Using CIRAS as a Compass to Grow Government Business

For Mary Phelan, it all boils down to CIRAS being a sounding board she can trust.

Phelan, program manager for government and defense at Polo Custom Products in Monticello, has been working closely with the CIRAS Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) for roughly two years.

CIRAS Launching 2019 Needs Survey

Every two years, CIRAS asks manufacturing leaders to step back and help us understand the condition of manufacturing in Iowa. What’s your greatest struggle? What’s working? Just as importantly, what’s not?

Balanced Scorecard Helps Schumacher Company Soar

Getting a radically revamped business on the right long-term path generally equires fresh insight and some concentrated planning.

CIRAS Seeks to Empower Government Contractors

The government sector is a vast ocean of possibility for Iowa businesses, but the waters can run treacherous if you don’t understand how it works.

To help with that, CIRAS experts have created a daylong training event to help Iowa companies take a deep dive into the world of government contracting and delve into advanced teaming strategies for business development.

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?

ESCP Finds Business by Making the Web Work for the Company

For John Nelson, the difference was like night and day—largely because everything looks dark when customers can’t find your website.

 Nelson is sales manager for ESCP Corporation, a Davenport metal fabricator and manufacturer of metal stacking racks. ESCP’s website used to work wonderfully, he said. But then one day, a periodic Google algorithm change seemingly knocked the company out of favor. All web-based leads just evaporated.

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.

CIRAS Tech Scouting Helps VT Industries Open New Doors

A quick five years after its journey began, a Holstein, Iowa, door-maker’s quest to find new alternatives for one of its products has morphed into a massive new business and a new company-owned recipe for producing fireproof doors.

Water Security in Iowa – Knowing What You Use, Having a Good Plan

For Bill Zimmerle, plant manager of the Valent BioSciences Corporation (VBC) facility in Osage, it all comes down to planning for the future.

The future, you see, requires water.

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.

Kay Park Recreation—A New Generation Rebuilds the Family Business

Kay Park Recreation was born in 1954 because its founder, Keith Borglum, was in the right place at the right time.

“His older brother happened to know some guys on a county conservation board,” said Keith’s son, Larry Borglum. “In the 1950s, when they started making parks everywhere, his older brother said, ‘I know some guys who could do that…’ ”

CIRAS PTAP—Link to National Network of Contracting Expertise

Government contracting is a byzantine business—a long and plodding trek through a jungle filled with complicated regulation, documentation requirements, and new marketing challenges.

Sound impossible? Not if you have help.

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.

The Dimensional Group Finds a New Approach

By the time CIRAS walked through his door, Adam Gold was ready to listen.

It was 2014, and it was clear that The Dimensional Group was a company with problems. The Mason City custom packaging and commercial printing firm had stretched beyond its capabilities.

Internet Marketing Is at the Core of Any Growth Strategy

For most of the online era, companies were able to maintain two separate growth strategies: a traditional marketing plan and a web/e-commerce plan. Not anymore.

Buyers, from consumers to professional B2B purchasing agents, have changed. It is now imperative to include your website, search engine optimization, search engine market­ing, social media marketing, email marketing, and web ana­lytics as integrated pieces of your overall marketing plan.

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:

On Growth: CIRAS Has Tools to Find New Technologies or New Markets

Earlier this year, Deere & Co. announced the $4.88 billion purchase of Wirtgen Group, a German company that makes construction equipment used in building roads. Analysts touted it at the time as something that would help the farm machinery manufacturer diversify and ease its dependence on agriculture.

Why is this important? Because it illustrates the realities of growing a business: there are only two real paths to do it in a lasting way—creating new products and/or finding new markets.

Digital Manufacturing is coming. Get ready.

Do you hear terms like “digital manufacturing,” “Industry 4.0,” and “Internet of Things,” but wonder how any of those things could actually impact your company? Are you sensing that something is coming but uncertain of what it all means? 

 CIRAS wants to help. 

Iowa Vendor Conference Answers Questions, Offers Guidance

Mark Baker eventually concluded that government contracting was worth a shot.

No, the CEO of Des Moines-based Endless Supplies Corporation acknowledged, it was probably not going to become his company’s primary business strategy. Becker still has difficulty reconciling the fast-moving, products-always-changing world of information technology with sometimes-lengthy government procurement processes. But after a full day at the Iowa Events Center last fall spent hopping between educational presentations and asking questions of the speakers, Becker concluded that Endless Supplies ought to at least get certified so his company can show that it’s ready and able to do business with the government.

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 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.”