America’s Small Business Development Centers – Iowa

By: Lisa Shimkat, State Director of America’s Small Business Development Center – Iowa

Lisa Shimkat, State Director of America's Small Business Development Center - Iowa

Lisa Shimkat, State Director of America’s Small Business Development Center – Iowa

Do you want to start a business, but do not know where to start?

Do you already have a business that you started a year ago and need help finding more customers so the business can grow?

Do you have an established business and are wondering what you will need to do to pass it on or sell it successfully to someone else?

These questions and many, many others are answered daily by the experienced advisers of America’s SBDC Iowa.

We provide no-fee, confidential, customized business counseling in all 99 Iowa counties to businesses that have up to 500 employees. That’s about 97% of the businesses in Iowa.

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Our services are offered by our 15 regional business assistance centers, which are located strategically across Iowa. We can help with a variety of subjects, including:

  • Business planning
  • Financing opportunities
  • Market research
  • Loan applications
  • Exporting
  • Cash flow projections
  • Marketing planning and strategy
  • Growth and succession strategies
  • Business continuity planning

These are just some our services; there are many others.

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We also conduct affordable workshops that teach practical skills and techniques, such as:

  • How to use QuickBooks
  • Recruiting, Retaining & Motivating Employees
  • How to Effectively Price your Product or Service

In addition to all of this, SBDC centers develop and maintain partnerships among Iowa business and community organizations as well as local, state and federal agencies. We are a focal point for public and private resources at the community level and encourage local business efforts, such as revolving loan funds. This is done to meet small business needs and grow and retain local businesses.

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In our Southeastern SBDC, which is located in Burlington and covers Lee, Des Moines, Louisa and Henry counties, Janine Clover has been helping entrepreneurs and business owners for over 14 years. You will find Janine’s contact information and more at Southeastern SBDC.

To be able to offer our counseling services free, America’s SBDC Iowa is funded by the U. S. Small Business Administration and the State of Iowa. We also receive funding and assistance from most of Iowa’s community colleges and Iowa’s three public universities.

Call 515-294-2030 or visit to find the Small Business Development Center in your region for helpful advice or more information about our services. We have the knowledge and experience to help you and help you find the solutions you are needing.

Fall in Southeast Iowa

Fall in SE Iowa Photo

As the leaves begin to change and the weather cools, Southeast Iowa doesn’t begin to hibernate, but instead comes alive with numerous events and festivals perfect to keep kids, adults, and families busy throughout the fall and winter months. We’ve highlighted a few that you may want to mark on your calendars!

Another fall activity that’s a must is visiting an apple orchard and Southeast Iowa has one that is filled with more than just apples! Appleberry Orchard is located in Donnellson, Iowa and is owned and operated by Ryan and Jessica Welch. The two farm 22 acres of apple orchards, a petting farm, and a farm market filled with fresh fruits, jams, jellies, and bakery items. The orchard has something for everyone from the kids play area to Date Night at the Orchard, taking place on October 24.

Appleberry is considered the oldest working orchard in the state of Iowa, as the first apple tree was planted on the property in 1852! You can learn more about the orchard by visiting their website here.

Mark your calendars for these upcoming events! 

October 23 and 24
Main Street Ghost Hunt in Fort Madison
Pre-Registration Required, $25.00 per person

October 30
Downtown Burlington Trick or Treat
4:00pm – 6:00pm

October 31
Begger’s Night in Fort Madison
5:00pm – 8:00pm

November 8
Holiday Open House
12:00pm – 4:00pm
Downtown Burlington

November 26
4th Annual Thanksgiving Turkey Trott 5K Run/Walk
8:45am – 11:00am
Burlington Golf Club
Register before November 6, 2015

November 28
Lighted Holiday Parade
5:00pm – 8:00pm
Downtown Burlington

December 10
Living Windows
6:00pm – 8:00pm
Downtown Burlington


Letter to the Editor: Businesses seek opportunity in Southeast Iowa

Originally published in the Des Moines Register on October 2, 2015.

Southeast Iowa’s economic resurgence is a product of our area’s increased support of current and new businesses of all sizes. As businesses continue to locate to the Great River Region, we can ensure greater economic opportunity, provide quality employment, and support a new entrepreneurial culture and spirit in our communities.

While our little corner of Southeast Iowa encountered significant hardship during the recession, recent investment has safeguarded the economic viability of our area. New construction projects like Silgan Containers and Iowa Fertilizer in addition to expansion projects such as Winegard, Shearer’s Foods, and Pinnacle Foods have combined with small projects like the new facades in downtown Burlington and new business start-ups like Bella Regazza, Bark-n-Play, Majestic Estate, Barn on the Ridge, and my company, Energyficient Systems.

Increased economic opportunity has led to better futures for those who live and work in the Great River Region of Burlington, Fort Madison and Keokuk. As a member of our area’s business community, I am proud of the employers and entrepreneurs that take the risk, and in turn improve our economy and increase the quality of life for the members of our community. Thanks to the cooperation between the business community in our area, local and state officials, we hope to continue the economic resurgence of our area.

— Chad Palmer, president and CEO of Energyficient Systems, Inc., Co-Chair Entrepreneurship Committee of Greater Burlington Partnership

Iowa Celebrates Manufacturing Day

National manufacturing day, also known as MFG Day, is a day that aims to address common misperceptions about manufacturing by giving manufacturers the opportunity to open their doors and showcase what manufacturing is – and what it isn’t. Manufacturing is just another element of technology that is moving our state forward. Iowa factories have added 6,900 jobs since 2010, an increase of 3.4 percent. Technological advancements and changes to the industry have transformed the way in which manufacturing work is performed and have created a demand for more middle-skilled workers. Although the official National Manufacturing Day was October 2, businesses and communities in Iowa are celebrating throughout the entire month of October.

Below are a few of manufacturing events worth checking out:

October 15, 2015 12:00pm – 1:00pm ISU Extension and Outreach will host a lunch and learn in Keosauqua, which will include a presentation of manufacturing technologies with a focus on additive manufacturing (3D printing) technology.

October 17, 2015 9:30am – 10:30am Will host a meeting with The Fairfield Economic Development Association and local companies to discuss tech-based innovation (with a focus on mfg) and how the ISU-CIRAS programs can assist organizations throughout the process.

October 28, 2015 5:00pm – 7:00pm Lee County Economic Development Group will be celebrating manufacturing in Fort Madison at the Annual Salute to Industry Summit. Don’t miss Manufacturing 101, a basic course that will help you develop the skills necessary to start a career in manufacturing. Enjoy appetizers and drinks while networking with professionals from key industries and elected officials from Lee County and Southeast Iowa.

 October 28, 2015 – October 29, 2015 Siemans will participate in Lee County Economic Development Group’s Salute to Industry Summit 2015. The facility will also host students enrolled in Wind Technician and Wind Blade Repair programs from Cloud Community College in Concordia, KS.

Many groups, including Center for Industrial Research and Service and Elevate Iowaare working to promote manufacturing in Iowa. Did you know manufacturing employs the most workers in Lee County with 18.4 percent of the workforce in the manufacturing sector in 2014? Additionally, 64 percent of workers employed in the manufacturing sector have training beyond high school.


Iowa manufacturing is continuing to grow and change the way we do business in Southeast Iowa. Many of the materials made in Iowa impact lives across the country. We’d love to hear which events you attend!

The Restoring Iowa Jobs Team 


Business Spotlight – Bickel’s Cycling & Fitness

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Name of the Owner/Manager:
Melinda Bickel, Co-Owner & Vice President, Bickel’s, Inc.

How long has Bickel’s Cycling and Fitness been in business?
50 years!

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Can you describe a typical day in the life of owning/managing/working at Bickel’s?
The best part of owning a small, family business is the opportunity to work with people. Our business can be split into two primary operations – bicycle sales & repairs and residential & commercial fitness sales & repairs. We pride ourselves on having an excellent selection of quality products available for home and business use and see to it that those items are operating at their best at all times, servicing things in a very timely manner – many days, offering same-day repairs.

While we have our daily routines, flexibility is always the name of the game. Being in the retail sector and dealing with the general public, no one day is truly the same. Like many working families out there, once my husband & I get the kiddos off to school, we hit the ground running the minute we step through the doors. That said, truthfully, we are always ‘on call.’ Being small business owners & living in the social realms around us, both physically in the community as well as on online media, we represent our company 24/7. Much of our personal life gets incorporated into our work life and vice versa. Many times, we find ourselves communicating with our customers & our team well past closing hours.

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What is your favorite part of doing business in Southeast Iowa?
Our family-owned business has a humble, grassroots beginning with a simple passion to do for others and treat people how you want to be treated. In turn, we have this wonderful opportunity to give back to our community, taking on new challenges every day, striving to learn and do better with each and every experience.

We enjoy doing business in Southeast Iowa because this is our home! Our families have been born and raised here just like much of our team and customers have as well. Being in business for 50-years, we have served generations of families, individuals & businesses; that sense of loyalty and community is very strong. In a world where there is so much flux and change, there’s something very reassuring about knowing your neighbors and connecting with local businesses who are known for their integrity, good products and services. That’s something that isn’t produced overnight, mail ordered, nor easily sustained for the longevity that we have been blessed with.

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In your opinion, what makes Southeast Iowa a great place to do business?
It’s a very interesting time right now with such rapid changes in technology, a vast global marketplace and multiple generations working side-by-side together in the workforce. This environment creates for some very unique dynamics in how we live and carry out our daily lives. That said, folks around here still value & desire a grassroots connection. As long as they feel they are treated respectfully, get good, individualized service, and access to product at a price that is fair & competitive, they seek out that direct, local contact. It’s that word-of-mouth reference that simply becomes part of the cultural landscape.

What positive changes have you seen in the Southeast Iowa business environment over the last several years?
We are very excited to see some new manufacturing business come to the area. These projects have certainly been a boost to job growth & local economies. There has also been a continued effort in increasing outdoor recreational activities, including trails for bicycling, which is a wonderful way to get people outside and exercising in a safe and fun environment.

What is one thing you want people to know about Bickel’s Cycling and Fitness that makes your business unique?
We are who we are! We look at everything we do as an investment into the future, taking a long-term, sustainable approach when it comes to the decisions we make. We invest a lot in our community services so inevitably we are always paying it forward to those who support our business.

We have a very seasoned, experienced team with a staff that averages 20 years of service. One of our mechanics is actually blind and has worked for us for the last 25 years, doing all of his work by touch. Leroy Bickel, the founder of Bickel’s, Inc, was one of the original founders of Bike Burlington, one of Iowa’s oldest bicycle clubs which is still in full operation today! The club was created on the heels of RAGBRAI’s inception and is well-known for weekly Wednesday night dinner rides.

That aside, interestingly enough, most bicycle businesses are not the size we are for the market we are located in. We draw from quite a broad radius due to our rural demographics. Being a destination, specialty business, we boast over 600 different styles, sizes & colors of bicycles. Like people, bicycles come in many different shapes & sizes, where one size does not fit all. Due to strong marketing efforts of discount retailers, many people believe bicycle sizing is based off wheel size when in fact it’s based off frame size. Most discount retailers offer just one frame size making for many uncomfortable, improper fittings. When people get properly fitted for a bicycle at our store, let’s just say they enjoy many hours & days riding their bikes.

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World Teachers’ Day – Honoring those who inspire for a brighter tomorrow

World Teachers' Day

World Teachers’ Day was created to honor and inspire for a brighter tomorrow. Today, teachers all over the world are being celebrated and we couldn’t be prouder of what our teachers in Iowa are doing to better the education of students in the area.

Iowa is nationally recognized for top quality K-12 public education system, world-class colleges and universities, and customized vocational and technical training programs through an extensive community college network.

Iowa has a high school graduation rate of 93.4 percent and Iowa students continue to outscore their peers on standardized tests. We could not reach these numbers without the hard work our teachers put in to educate our students.

Thanks to the motivated teachers in Iowa, our students will be experienced and successful once they hit the job market. In Lee County alone, almost 90 percent of residents are employed full or part-time.

As you head to class this week or pick your child up from school, take the time to let a teacher know how much you care about the work they are putting in to help Iowans succeed!

Happy #WorldTeachersDay!

The Restoring Iowa Jobs Team