UNI Creates Small Business Opportunity Toolbox for Rural Communities


Midwest Partnership



Adair and Guthrie Counties



Economic developers in rural areas have a need to conduct a business retention and expansion program for small businesses but do not always have the capacity and resources to do so.


The Institute for Decision Making (IDM) and the Center for Business Growth & Innovation (CBGI) developed the Small Business Opportunity Toolbox (SBOX) to assist economic developers. The SBOX includes survey assistance and technology, business list and GIS mapping, volunteer and staff training and support, event promotion, survey analysis, and follow up with economic developers to ensure that small businesses are receiving needed assistance.



The SBOX program was rolled out with great success in eight communities and surrounding rural areas in Adair and Guthrie counties.


Over 300 businesses were targeted for a visit over three separate events. The events engaged about 20 community stakeholders, as well as volunteers, resource providers from the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), CBGI, Iowa Workforce Development, local chambers of commerce and other organizations that assist businesses in the area.


This work has gained national attention as the project was awarded the Excellence & Innovation Award for Regional and Economic Development by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities in 2017.