But graduates of The University of Iowa, particularly alumni of
the College of Engineering, are developing breakthrough technologies,
starting small businesses, and providing hundreds of high-paying
jobs. And in greater and greater numbers, theyre putting down
roots in Iowa to do it.
"There are a lot of opportunities here," says B.J. Do,
founder and CEO of ABC Virtual Communications (ABCV), a financial
software services company headquartered in Urbandale. "The
people in Iowa are very friendly; they collaborate with one another
well and tend to have a superior work ethic. We have a stable environment,
good schools, and clean cities. Quite simply, this is a nice place
for families to live."
Do started his business in late 1995 after receiving both bachelors
and masters degrees in electrical and computer engineering
from the UI College of Engineering. Now, almost five years later,
he employs nearly 100 people, most in high-level professional and
engineering positions. Because ABCV has grown 50-150 percent in
each year of operation, Do and his staff have had to work hard at
recruiting local talent. But he says it has been easier for his
company than for many others in technology-related fields.
"A lot of our engineers either want to stay in Iowa, or they
are from here and they want to come back," Do says. "We
will always employ a good number of Iowans and graduates of the
University. I know from my experience that Iowa teaches real fundamentals
of engineering and discipline. This is very important to me as an
employer because technology changes quickly, but the fundamentals
Is it hard to compete in a global marketplace so far from the dense
networks of his competitors? Do says no. The people and resources
hes found in Iowa are far more important than proximity to
a coast. Thats why last Christmas he treated his entire staff
to an all-expense-paid trip to the Bahamas in thanks for their service.
"Our asset is our people," Do says. "And here in
Iowa, weve got very good people."
Jim Griffin agrees. The founder of Diversified Software Industries,
Inc. (DSI), a software company based in Coralville that develops
and designs products for the transportation industry, Griffin is
originally from Florida. He came to Iowa at the age of 24 to get
an education, start his family, and, ultimately, to make a career
change. Griffin earned a UI bachelors degree in electrical
engineering in 1994, then started his business, alone, in the basement
of his home.
Today, DSI employs more than 40 people and is funded in part by
investments from Motorola. The company recently moved into a new
facility in Coralville, where Griffin says they have plenty of room
By maintaining ties with The University of Iowa, Griffin has access
to qualified potential employees as well as all the latest research
and education in technology. In 1999, DSI set up an internship and
co-op program with the College of Engineering. This arrangement,
Griffin says proudly, benefits everyone involved.
"We provide an opportunity for students to get real-world
experience before they graduate," Griffin says. "And in
return, we get exposure to new talent coming out of the University.
We find fresh, new employees who are well-educated and already familiar
with our organization."
Fred Streicher, director of external relations for the College
of Engineering, points out that its good business to take
advantage of resources at the University. According to a study by
Coopers & Lybrand, businesses with ties to universities and
other postsecondary institutions have productivity rates 60 percent
higher than their peers.
The University of Iowas John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center
(JPEC) provides an additional resource to start-up companies in
"The people at Iowa understand that it is crucial to have
an energetic entrepreneurial environment in the state, because small
firms are the major source of both new jobs and innovation in products
and services," says David Hensley, director of JPEC. "Small
businesses are the fuel that will provide long-term growth in our
economy. Our state has a pretty diverse economic base, but we all
need to work on this continuously."
University researchers involved in teaching youth through EHSI
agree that the camp has a greater impact than simply educating and
enriching 15 students each summer.
"Our lab is dedicated to better understanding birth defects,"
Murray says. "But in a larger sense, it is part of a research
labs function to allow talented students to experience research
and see how it will affect the future world they will both inhabit
and create. Then they, in turn, take this knowledge back to their