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Insights: Alison Doyle of ISU Research Park

Interviewed by Kevin Kimle | Excerpts

Kevin Kimle:  Alison, you’ve been at the Iowa State University Research Park for 12 years.  What’s changed in that time? Alison Doyle:  When I started there were about 600 people employed in the Research Park. Now it’s over 2,000.  More so than that, what’s changed is the amount of resources available for entrepreneurs.  Kimle:  Is there a different vibe today in a larger ISU Research Park? Doyle:  Definitely. One way to track what’s changed is related to acquisitions. In the past, when a business in the Research Park would get acquired, the business would leave with the acquiring company.  That’s changed now.  It took building a critical mass so that businesses that are acquired stayed and continued to grow.  It became a function of creating a sense of community in the Research Park.  If you're in a large city, that happens organically -- maybe in the back of an Uber or something -- but that's not going to happen in Ames, Iowa. So we've created a whole series of event and venues for people to go to, meet one another and to help one another succeed. Kimle:  A short distance from where we sit in the Core Facility at the Research Park is a daycare, a medical clinic in a fitness center. Doyle:  Yes. Also a chiropractic clinic, a full service pharmacy, a daycare and a world class restaurant. We really followed Workiva's lead. When they came, they built a lot of that into their facility because they wanted to recruit the next great employee and felt like they needed to have those services close by. And from a sheer economic standpoint, it was a smart thing to do, right? If you look at 400, 500, 600, or 700 people driving, going to get lunch and it takes an hour to make that pilgrimage every day, and you do the math on that, it's pretty simple investment to put those services in your facility. But we also shifted from selling research infrastructure as our lead to just selling talent.  Most companies are really looking for people. And the next generation of talent demands something different. What we're trying to create is an environment to attract talent.  That’s a work in progress, but we're headed in the right direction. Kimle:  35,000-plus students at Iowa State University are part of the draw? Doyle:  Yes. You can read the statistics about Ames having the lowest unemployment rate in the United States, but the companies in the Research Park avoid the problem of attracting talent by creating links to Iowa State University. A business can set up an office in the Research Park and attract new employees from a great pool of talent that's graduating every semester.


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