Local entrepreneur brings statewide attention to Cedar Valley [Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Iowa :: ]
(Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (IA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 30--CEDAR FALLS -- Local entrepreneur Mark Kittrell has taken his business acumen statewide, and in a sense he has taken the Cedar Valley with him.
Kittrell, a Cedar Falls entrepreneur, real estate developer and IT consultant, took that step in October when he became the new president of the Des Moines-based Iowa Innovation Corp.
Kittrell replaced Jack Harris, who left to work on the creation of an advanced manufacturing and materials center.
"We could not be happier to have Mark on board," Cara Heiden, vice chair of the IIC's board said at the time Kittrell accepted the position. "His experience in technology startup companies and his service to the state as an officer or director of numerous industry, state and regional economic development organizations makes him the perfect candidate to move the organization to the next level."
Kittrell, who still spends part of each week in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area, said his new position is a statement that the Cedar Valley has plenty to contribute to the advancement of the state's business community.
"The Innovation Corp. is really statewide, and one of the first things I've been telling people as I've been stepping into the job is I want to make sure we do get past this emotion that what happens in Des Moines is for Des Moines," Kittrell said. "I'm devoted to eastern Iowa and the Cedar Valley specifically, so I'm really excited to bring that perspective."
Kittrell has been involved with multiple tech startups, real estate development and economic development initiatives. He is founder of TEAM Technologies, a regional IT consulting/services firm specializing in IT and Internet services. He led the firm from modest beginnings to more than 100 employees through engagements with many of the Midwest's leading companies, including John Deere, Meredith Publishing and Principal Financial Group.
TEAM operates three data centers in Iowa and Wisconsin specializing in health care, financial services and other industries. The firm was honored three times with the Inc. 500 award for rapidly growing private companies and was acquired by TDS Telecom in December 2010.
Kittrell also is co-founder and CEO of Eagle View Partners developing River Place, a $70 million mixed-use real estate project situated along the Cedar River in downtown Cedar Falls. He holds a B.S. in physics from the University of Northern Iowa and an advanced management development designation in real estate from Harvard University's Graduate School of Design.
"I feel like there's an awful lot of effort that's being put into statewide initiatives from people in the Cedar Valley, and my hope is I'll be able to coordinate those things and deliver some amazing results," Kittrell said.
One of the newest projects the IIC is involved with is the Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Center at the Cedar Valley TechWorks.
The Iowa Innovation Corp., Hawkeye Community College, UNI and John Deere are all involved. "That's a high-visibility initiative that can deliver a big impact not only for the Cedar Valley but also to the state," Kittrell said.
It also likely will provide a nice spark for the TechWorks project.
He offered a couple of examples in his reasoning.
"First, what we're trying to do is coordinate a lot of state activity through TechWorks," he said. "No. 2 is if we put smart people and state-of-the-art equipment someplace, we're going to get a lot of interest from industry. We think people will want to put staff there, develop their own labs, and we may see new development around there and inside the building."
Kittrell said there is a "large federal push" behind state, private and local economic-development initiatives such as TechWorks.
"That can move the needle quite a bit in manufacturing," Kittrell said. "We think the Iowa Advance Manufacturing Center can be a real magnet for that."
The IIC is the "private" portion of the state's private-public partnership for economic development, Kittrell said.
"As a not-for-profit organization, we have flexibility that the state does not have," he said. "Working with private venture and angel funding folks is a priority with us."
Local programs that encourage entrepreneurship and the development of tech-related businesses -- TechBrew, for example -- get considerable statewide attention, Kittrell said.
"TechBrew is one of the most vibrant programs in the state," he said. "We're really pleased to see a lot of entrepreneurism there. UNI has a ton of entrepreneurship activity. We'd like to try and bring a lot more private funding opportunities to those kinds of entrepreneurial ideas. So. if we could get more angel (funding) activity and more venture capital in this area, that's another big priority."
The outlook for such funding is bright, Kitrell said, using state tax credits and other incentives. The goal is to put together $100 million in innovation funding.
"We're also working with a group in Des Moines called Plains Angels who are interested in increasing their footprint in the eastern half of the state," Kittrell said.
There is reason to expect good things on the entrepreneurial front in 2014, Kittrell said.
"The state is in very good shape, financially. That's wonderful," he said. "I would say the question that is going to be in front of an awful lot of people is with a good economy, do we have the wisdom to make some smart investments. We are the kind of state that understands you have to plant and tend and harvest. The best time to do that sort of planting is now, when we have a good solid budget."
(c)2014 Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (Waterloo, Iowa)
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