Senator tours college’s entrepreneur center

Source: Ottumwa Courier

OTTUMWA — A love for the community college system and a desire to see young people stay in their Iowa communities prompted Sen. Joni Ernst to visit Indian Hills Community College Thursday afternoon.

“I love the community college system,” said Ernst after meeting with IHCC administration and touring Iam Aagtech at the college’s Regional Entrepreneur Center. “When you look at the value you get at a community college, it’s fantastic.”

Ernst would like to see more people take advantage of the regional two-year schools, she said. She’d also like to find ways to develop jobs in rural areas to keep those graduates in the state.

“So many times I’m asking our young people, are you planning to stay in Iowa?” said Ernst. Too often, they didn’t see a reason to stay. “Now they see those opportunities.”

The incubation center on IHCC’s north campus gives entrepreneurs the space and assistance they need to start a business locally. Ernst visited Thursday with the owners and employees of Iam Agtech, a company that provides sensors and fiber optics for agricultural needs.

Started by Dominic Murphy in 2017 with support from both IHCC and Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation, the company employs several graduates of the IHCC laser and optics technology program, some who had moved away from Ottumwa upon graduating and moved back due to the opportunity Iam Agtech offered.

The company manufactures its own prototypes and products and markets them nationwide. The sensors can monitor water and fertilizer levels giving farmers instant feedback that will let them make more accurate decisions about their crops in real time.

The company also makes sensors for pipelines and bridges that can monitor conditions in real time so companies can “take action before real damage is done,” Murphy told Ernst.

Agtech is currently working on a sensor to monitor high temperatures which could be used in turbines or foundries.

“This incubation center is great to have,” Murphy told Ernst.

Ernst agreed. “We want these young, brilliant minds in Iowa.”

“You know how important it is to create opportunities in our area,” IHCC President Marlene Sprouse told Ernst. The IHCC laser program has been in existence for 30 years, Sprouse said, but graduates moved away.

“Now they have reason to come back here to Ottumwa,” said Ernst.

Spouse told the senator that she hates to make it all about funding, but “It always comes back to funding,” Ernst said.