About ABI Foundation

For more than 35 years, the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI) Foundation has been dedicated to developing Iowa's workforce and leaders through statewide educational programs.

The ABI Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization annually supported by contributions from corporations, foundations and individual donors. The foundation is committed to providing statewide education programs to students, employees and businesses to develop community leaders and strengthen Iowa's workforce. The ABI Foundation's programs include Business Horizons, Leadership Iowa University and Leadership Iowa.

Meeting Community Needs

The ABI Foundation meets community needs in three primary ways:

  • Filling the gap in Iowa's career education at both the high school and college level.
  • Providing solutions for the state's workforce development needs.
  • Replenishing leaders and building civic engagement to enhance Iowa's future.

Click here to view the ABI Foundation's 2018-19 Annual Report.

The Founding of the ABI Foundation

In 1982, as our flagship program Leadership Iowa launched, this type of programming was an emerging concept with only a few similar opportunities throughout the country. By coincidence, several locally focused leadership development programs also began in Iowa that year, including those in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. In retrospect, this may indicate many identifying the greater interest and need throughout the state.

For us, the inception is thanks to the far-reaching vision of Iowa Manufacturers Association (IMA) board members as they considered how to broaden engagement efforts. This influenced the comprehensive focus of the program.

From the start, Leadership Iowa operated with an “issues awareness” curriculum. Session topics included economic development, healthcare, education, agriculture, government, workforce and other important areas. Experts explained and leaders discussed challenges and opportunities specific to our state. The culture among the founders and early participants was a catalyst for immediate change and further expansion.

In 1984, IMA became the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI), and with it, the ABI Foundation. All of this was in just two years’ time, and not only did they know what the next program should be, they willed it into reality that same year.

In response to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce report that said “high school students do not understand the role of business in a thriving economy,” the Business Horizons program was implemented. It offered an engaging way for students to understand and apply theories of economics to the real world, consider their strengths and skills in the context of business and industry, and explore the variety of careers available in our state.

For many years, the attention remained on Business Horizons and Leadership Iowa. However, many conversations surrounded the young professionals in-between. The necessity of an additional program became clear as the recession of 2008 began. Leadership Iowa University was crafted for college students to consider what life after graduation could look like in our state and to find certainty in the next steps of their careers. Through tours and networking, they gain a greater understanding of the depth of industry that exists in Iowa and the range of talents each organization needs in its workforce to sustain it. We consider this our “opportunities awareness” program. 

From the beginning, these programs have persevered and prospered because of the involvement of Iowa professionals. We could not provide participants with experiences that carry through their entire lives without this support.

Together, we inform and inspire Iowans through intergenerational leadership opportunities. Our alumni, sponsors and partners are an interconnected network that continues to grow stronger, reach further and achieve greatly at advancing Iowa.

As companies need plans for continued success, so does our state. That’s what the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI) Foundation has accomplished and continues to provide with statewide educational leadership programs.

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