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Business Times: Fed funds aid Mid-Iowa exports

Dean Hagen, an employee at Cycle Force Group, unloads a box that contains an unassembled bicycle at a warehouse in Ames.

Dean Hagen, an employee at Cycle Force Group, unloads a box that contains an unassembled bicycle at a warehouse in Ames.

Money will help businesses beef up training, advisory services

Iowa is one of half a dozen states that will share nearly $4 million in one-time federal funding to beef up their export-related training and advisory services, according to the Small Business Administration’s Washington, D.C., office.

The additional assistance may come in handy for Mid-Iowa businesses that already have qualified for SBA loans, according to information from the SBA’s regional office in Des Moines.

According to SBA spokesman Thomas D. Lentell, Iowa’s $477,754 federal grant will let the state Small Business Development Center:

Lentell said the Lead Center, essentially the lead center (or “state center” as they call themselves at the website www.iowasbdc.org) “oversees and administers the activities of the SBDC program in Iowa, including the 15 Regional Centers located throughout Iowa.

“In a nutshell, the Regional Offices provide the hands-on technical assistance to entrepreneurs and the state office houses and handles the administrative side of things,” he said.

Two Mid-Iowa businesses qualified for SBA-backed loans within the last five fiscal years and could be using the funds for exports, Lentell said.

“On each loan application, there’s a box that the borrower and/or lender can check to indicate that all/part of the loan is going to be used for export purposes,” he said.

“But it’s not a requirement that the box is checked, so in a lot of cases, over the years, we’ve come to realize that while some of our small business loans are probably being used for export purposes, they’re not being coded as such.”

One of the businesses is Ames-based Cycle Force Group LLC

“We’re an importer of bikes and accessories from Italy, Asia, France and other countries,” said Sue Cunningham, vice president.

“But we have exported in the past.

If a customer in Egypt needs a bicycle order to be filled quickly, they may choose to use us instead of ordering units from Asia,” she said.

Cycle Force exported a large shipment of bicycles to the United Kingdom last year, Cunningham said.

Part of the federal grant to Iowa will show up in Ames, according to Mike Upah, director of the Iowa State University Small Business Development Center.

Upah said his office will receive $16,000 over the next two years “to help us develop new technology businesses and to augment the services we now deliver.”

The money could be used to hire consultants for “some very specialized training,” Upah said.

“For example, we’ve done consulting for a company that needed advice on grain handling,” Upah said. “Skills like the ones we’d be paying for aren’t common, and they don’t come cheap.”

Bob Zientara can be reached at (515) 663-6961, or rzientara@amestrib.com.

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