The future of the Corridor is entrepreneurship

By Maurie Cashman | Guest Column

Entrepreneurship is important for many reasons, from promoting social change to driving innovation. Entrepreneurship occurs in small businesses, education, large companies, charitable and religious organizations. It’s about the impact of fostering new ideas and ways of thinking to create dramatic change.

Here are a few reasons entrepreneurship is important:

Entrepreneurs add to regional income

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy:

  • Iowa has 267,733 small businesses
  • Iowa has 646,525 small business employees
  • 3% of Iowa businesses are small businesses (defined as those with 500 or fewer employees)
  • 3% of Iowa employees work for small businesses


Iowa firms with fewer than 100 employees have the largest share of small-business employment.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Iowa small-business employment is greater than total employment in South Dakota and nearly equal to total employment in Idaho.

 Entrepreneurs create social change

By offering unique products and services, entrepreneurs break away from tradition and reduce dependence on obsolete systems and technologies. This results in an improved quality of life, improved morale and greater economic freedom.

My son completed his education to become a music instructor. After a difficult job search, he landed his first teaching job and hated it.  He ended up leaving the profession and while evaluating his options we stumbled onto the DeltaV program sponsored by NewBoCo. DeltaV allows students to get started in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and to take training in advanced programming and web design. After completing the program, he found a position with Merchant’s Bonding in West Des Moines and is doing great.

The Art of Education in Osage began when an art instructor grew frustrated with being forced to take general continuing education courses that had nothing to do with art. So, she and her husband began offering accredited CE courses online specifically for art instructors. In 2019, The Art of Education became accredited as the Art of Education University. Instead of exclusively offering courses and degrees, AOEU provides a variety of learning opportunities. Instead of abandoning students after graduation, AOEU supports its students during an entire career. Instead of offering an endless list of degree programs to every student imaginable, AOEU is hyper-focused on the field of art education.

Imagine – a university built by art teachers, exclusively for art teachers. Imagine the social and professional impact on the individuals who have discovered and taken advantage of these two entrepreneurial enterprises.

Entrepreneurs spur community development

Community development includes attracting different business anchors such as senior housing, educational enterprises and visitors and retirees. These are less traditional, but effective, ways of increasing the flow of resources into the economy from outside. Cheap land and labor are no longer the keys to community development. Rather it is knowledgeable workers and a culture of innovation and creativity.

Think of what has occurred since the flood of 2008. We have new housing developments in urban downtown areas, bike trails that connect Center Point to Iowa City and beyond, new senior housing developments, new school construction and theatre restorations – all completed and supported by entrepreneurial individuals and organizations.

We must work together

We need to work with stakeholders to establish a framework that will allow entrepreneurship in each city and rural area to flourish. We must cut down on negative externalities, instead focusing on the growth trajectories of local business to stimulate the Corridor’s economy from the ground up.

Growing local businesses is good for business, good for local economies, and good for entire communities. The relationship between entrepreneurship and economic development is important to understand for policymakers and business owners.

Empowering local businesses can positively change communities. Few places possess enough assets on their own to compete for and support new, existing, and emerging businesses. Our neighbor’s successes spillover into our own borders.  It’s about regions, networks, clusters and innovation. It’s about entrepreneurship.

Maurie Cashman is a member-owner of Agri-Management Farm Services LLC and manages its Aspen Grove Investments brand.