Boosting Business Development

August 11, 2016 | Partners in Education: Working together to address Iowa's workforce challenge Emily Schettler, Iowa Association of Business and Industry,

Attendees at the 2016 Taking Care of Business Conference participate in Advance Iowa's Thinking Like a Futurist workshop.

West Des Moines city and economic development leaders recognize the importance of cultivating small businesses.

That’s what led to a new educational series aimed at helping these companies learn about everything from identifying customers to long-term strategic planning.

“We know it’s not just large businesses that make up a city,” said Jo Eckert, assistant executive director of the West Des Moines Business Incubator. “Our large employers are fantastic, but we need small businesses to help run the community.”

The city of West Des Moines partnered with Historic Valley Junction, an economic development organization, and Advance Iowa, a comprehensive consulting program at the University of Northern Iowa that assists midsize companies, to create the WDM Boost series. The four-part program series began on Aug. 9 and includes sessions on improving business performance, strategic planning, marketing and customer discovery.

Historic Valley Junction Executive Director Jim Miller said the series was in part born out of feedback from area businesses that said they were interested in training.

“We had been having conversations about it internally, and when we asked businesses, ‘Truly, does anyone want this?’ we had a great response,” Miller said.

Hosting the sessions locally makes them easy for busy business owners to attend, Miller and Eckert said.

“In these locally owned businesses, oftentimes the owner is most focused on the day-to-day operations, as they should be,” Miller said. “But they don’t always have time to figure out the trainings they want or need or how they’re going to find them.

It makes it a lot easier if we’re right here, offering it to you.”

The series is geared toward so-called Stage 2 businesses, with 10 to 100 employees, and is open to all companies, not just those in West Des Moines.

Program Director Dan Beenken said Advance Iowa wants to focus on helping businesses throughout the state identify new opportunities and potential for growth.

“Partnerships like these help us reach out to midsize companies that are so vital to our economy but can often be overlooked,” Beenken said.


This four-part series is designed to focus on key business developent themes. There's still time for interested business leaders to participate in three of the four sessions.

Thinking like a Futurist: Strategic Planning | Sept. 13
Marketing GPS | Oct. 11
The Power of Customer Discovery | Nov. 8

Click here to learn more about these sessions and how to register.