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USDA Microenterprise Grant Awarded to John Pappajohn Entreprenurial Center at NIACC

Wednesday, November 10, 2010   (0 Comments)
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Mason City, IA – Nov. 4, 2010 - The NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC) has been awarded a $130,000 grant that will help continue important leadership for small businesses in North Iowa.

The USDA Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program is a new national program that will invest $45.1 million in organizations such as NIACC that provide training, technical assistance or make small loans to new and existing rural small businesses.

NIACCs JPEC, one of only two grant recipients in Iowa, will use the grant to continue providing essential, one-on-one counseling to North Iowa businesses in 2011. The JPEC and the Small Business Development Center provide technical support to for-profit businesses of all sizes and at every stage of development, but microenterprises are particularly prevalent in North Iowa.

Microenterprises are small businesses with five or fewer full-time employees. They make up about 87% of the businesses in North Iowa. In some North Iowa counties, nine out of every 10 businesses are microenterprises, including many main street and home-based enterprises. The NIACC JPEC has been actively supporting local microenterprise initiatives in Forest City, Mitchell County and Lake Mills.

The biggest immediate impact of the grant is that NIACC can retain the position that Mark Olchefske has held supporting businesses across the region.

"Mark’s work has always been funded by a combination of external federal and state dollars,” said NIACC President Dr. Debra Derr. "Regional economic development support never competed for internal resources with the academic mission of the college. The new business incubator was constructed with federal dollars and we have been able to provide counseling services across North Iowa with state funded support. This grant enables us to continue that work without putting a financial burden on the college.”

In addition to microenterprise, Olchefske (as part of the JPEC) also provides technical assistance to under-represented entrepreneurs (women, minorities and individuals with disabilities) through the Iowa Department of Economic Development’s Targeted Small Business program. He also co-administers the NanoLoan program for pre-bankable startups with Ted Bair of the Small Business Development Center and oversees business incubation and business acceleration in NIACC’s service area.

"The Pappajohn Center has almost 150 years of private sector experience from start-up companies to large fortune 500 experience,” observed Jamie T. Zanios, Vice President of NIACC and director of the JPEC. "We have been, and still are, active entrepreneurs. This means our counsel comes from experience and practicality. Entrepreneurs and small businesspeople are the economic backbone of this area and this nation. We cannot eliminate the risks they face daily, but we can help them identify, reduce and manage them.”

The national award winning John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center is located on the North Iowa Area Community College campus in Mason City and provides college level courses and degree programs in entrepreneurship, as well as comprehensive consulting services for business start-ups, existing industries and owner transitions in the North Iowa region. Space is available for start-up businesses in the North Iowa Business Incubator. For more information, contact the NIACC JPEC at 641.422.4342 or e-mail: or visit the website:

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