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Pappajohn's $4 Million Aims for New Businesses

by David Elbert

The Iowan also plans to push the state to provide more money for entrepreneurs.

Iowa's best-known venture capitalist, John Pappajohn, is donating $4 million in a campaign to create new businesses in Iowa.

"I want to really expand entrepreneurial efforts in Iowa," Pappajohn said Monday.

"The timing is right for this," he said, adding that he hopes his contribution becomes part of a statewide effort to encourage new business ventures.

Pappajohn, of Des Moines, said he will give $4 million to the five Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers he created in 1996. That will bring to more than $10 million the amount that Pappajohn has contributed to the nonprofit centers.

Pappajohn, who became one of Iowa's wealthiest people by investing in startup businesses, said he will lobby Iowa lawmakers to provide more state resources for entrepreneurs.

The state contribution could come through the Iowa Values Fund, or some other vehicle that could be administered by the Iowa Department of Economic Development, Pappajohn said.

The Pappajohn centers are located at Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, Drake University, the University of Northern Iowa and North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City.

The centers have helped start more than 1,600 businesses, which have created nearly 4,000 jobs, Pappajohn said. Last year, nearly 7,800 people participated in programs at the centers.

The Pappajohn centers at Iowa and ISU are ranked among the top entrepreneurial schools in the country by Entrepreneur Magazine. In October, the Princeton Review and Forbes magazine ranked the University of Iowa No. 9 among entrepreneurial schools.

Until now, the Iowa and ISU programs have been largely supported financially by Pappajohn and others from the private sector, said Steven Carter, director of the ISU Pappajohn Center. The successes that have come out of the centers in recent years will help make the case for broader support from state government, he said.

The U of I's program took a former fraternity house and turned it into an incubator for student-run businesses. ISU created a separate dorm to house 32 entrepreneurial students. Those students will help decide at the end of the year how to further broaden the ISU program, Carter said.

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