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IEDA Board Approves Financial Assistance for Seven Companies

Editor's Note: Casey Everts (Dibzees) is a UI alum who won money and received mentoring through a John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center business plan competition in 2009. Don Schoen (BettrLife) is on the JPEC advisory board.

On Monday, the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) board awarded financial assistance to seven companies for job creation, expansion, and small business development projects. Today's awards will assist in the creation of 120 new jobs and will result in $36.5 million of new capital investment to the state.

The board approved assistance for planned or proposed projects located in Johnston, Diagonal, St. Ansgar, Fairfield, Estherville, Urbandale, and Iowa City.

The companies that were awarded assistance include DuPont Pioneer in Johnston; Excel Engineering in Diagonal; Grain Millers Inc. in St. Ansgar; Solight LLC. in Fairfield; Ecosense Inc. in Estherville; BettrLife Corporation from Urbandale; and Dibzees in Iowa City.

Details on each company are below.

DuPont Pioneer is the world's leading producer and supplier of advanced plant genetics to farmers worldwide. The company was awarded tax benefits by the board for the construction of new office/lab space and greenhouse in Johnston. This $13 million capital investment is expected to create 100 jobs.

Excel Engineering, based in Diagonal, specializes in engine testing and natural gas engine design. The company plans to construct and install a gas pipeline to accommodate future clients' needs in the technical analysis necessary to test natural gas engines for major manufacturers. In addition, the project includes remodeling one of the company's existing buildings and the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment. The board awarded the company tax benefits for this $1.6 million capital investment that is set to create 10 jobs.

Grain Millers Inc. was awarded tax benefits for a $21.9 million capital investment that involves constructing a four-story facility, improving an existing processing line, adding a packaging line, and purchasing equipment. The St. Ansgar-based company is a privately held industrial and consumer ingredient processing company that sells products to major food companies in North America. The project is expected to create 10 jobs.

The next four companies were awarded assistance through the Demonstration Fund and the Iowa Innovation Acceleration Fund. The former provides financial and technical assistance to encourage high-technology prototype and concept development activities that have a clear potential to lead to commercially viable products or services within a reasonable period of time. The Iowa Innovation Acceleration Fund promotes the formation and growth of businesses that engage in the transfer of technology into competitive, profitable companies that create high paying jobs.

Solight LLC, based in Fairfield, has developed and plans to manufacture and market solar thermal collector systems. The solar collector system technology was developed by Foresight Technology, an Iowa technology company focused on developing innovative products in the area of clean energy and technology. The company was awarded an $85,300 loan from the Iowa Innovation Acceleration Fund and a $14,700 grant through the Demonstration Fund to assist the company in the next stages of development and commercialization of this technology.

Ecosense Inc. was awarded a $150,000 royalty through the Demonstration Fund to provide for scale-up of their product marketing and distribution on a broad national basis in early 2013. The Estherville-based company has designed and developed an alternative reusable produce bag that incorporates several performance features (transparent material, stretch along horizontal plane—not vertically, anti-microbial, machine washable/dryable, retains shape) and utilizes post consumer recycled water bottles.

BettrLife Corporation—a health and wellness technology company—has developed a fully integrated mobile and web platform designed for mobile health coaching and is marketed to health and wellness providers. Using the application, patient and member populations are able to develop and create customized meal plans through extensive recipes, products, and restaurant listings, maintain food and exercise logs, as well as deal with allergies and ingredient preferences. The company was awarded a $250,000 loan through the Iowa Innovation Acceleration Fund to commercialize a web portal and the mobile application.

The board awarded Dibzees a $500,000 royalty through the Iowa Innovation Acceleration Fund to be used toward the development of new elements for their online auction website that integrates shopping and entertainment features. The company, which is based in Iowa City, was formed in 2009 from an idea spawned by several University of Iowa and Iowa State University students. The company plans to launch new features designed to provide for differentiation among other competitors in the market space.

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