Why Iowa? with Dean David Spalding, Iowa State University
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Why Iowa? Five Questions with David Spalding


David Spalding

Iowa State University

After a successful career on Wall Street and eight years working at his alma mater on the East Coast, David Spalding was drawn to Iowa State University by its land grant mission of accessible, practical education, research designed to help the world, and engagement with Iowa’s economy.  Spalding was named the Raisbeck Endowed Dean of the Ivy College of Business at Iowa State in 2013 and has served as the Vice President of Economic Development and Industry Relations (EDIR) since 2018. 

Iowa State’s EDIR serves as a single point of contact to streamline connections between industry and the university’s economic development units, including America's Small Business Development Centers Iowa (SBDC), Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS), Office of Innovation Commercialization, ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship and the ISU Research Park. The EDIR team has contributed to a number of awards for Iowa State including 2023 Entrepreneurial University of the Year for the Americas by the Accreditation Council for Entrepreneurial and Engaged Universities, improving Iowa State’s national ranking from #26 to #11 and maintaining it for three years in the Princeton Review's annual survey of undergraduate entrepreneurship programs, and top Innovation and Economic Prosperity University Award at the 2023 Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities conference. 
Dean Spalding was born in upstate New York and grew up in Kentucky, then earned his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and his MBA from New York University. He had a 29-year career in finance in New York City before retiring from the firm he co-founded to work in higher education.   


1. What are your priorities as the vice president of economic development and industry relations at Iowa State?
We are focused on enhancing the economy in all of Iowa’s 99 counties. There are a number of programs that are headquartered at Iowa State that operate and provide resources across the state.  Small businesses are the employment and economic engines of our economy, so anything we can do to better prepare our students to start businesses and support them through their entrepreneurship journey will create jobs and benefit communities across the state.

Examples of these resources at work include Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) and America's Small Business Development Centers Iowa (SBDC Iowa). CIRAS serves as the extension engine for our engineering functions at the university.  Over five years, CIRAS has served more than 4,400 clients, driven more than $3 billion in increased sales, cost-savings and new investments; and helped create or retain nearly 36,000 jobs.  
  • Iowa SBDC has 15 locations and supports the creation of four new businesses every week, 164 new jobs per month, and more than $3 million in increased sales every week. 
  • 2. How is Iowa State’s approach to entrepreneurship unique?  
  • Iowa State brings a commitment to entrepreneurship that is collaborative and groundbreaking, starting with university leadership. At many universities, entrepreneurship is isolated in one college or entity, but at Iowa State, there is a commitment from all seven colleges to provide entrepreneurship opportunities for students.  The “Innovate at Iowa State” theme truly resonates across campus. 
  • There is a concentrated effort to nurture new ventures.  The ISU Startup Factory is our on-campus startup incubator to help inventors and researchers move ideas to a commercial business. It is a tremendous resource designed to help faculty, staff and students develop a business from the discoveries they make.   
  • 3. What advantages does Iowa offer to founders and entrepreneurs looking to bring a new innovation to the market, especially in the agriculture and bioscience sectors? 
  • If you are going to start or operate a business in agriculture, Iowa is the place to be.  As a leading producer of corn, soybeans, hogs, eggs, cattle and more, Iowa is a great place to develop and move ideas forward and to get feedback from farmers and others in the ag industry.  It is a great place for startups to be successful and for growing businesses to expand their operations.   
  • A good example is Pivot Bio. The Silicon Valley startup has established its Midwest hub for technical expertise, product information and customer support in a new, state-of-the art facility at the ISU Research ParkIt is just one of 130 companies located in the 550 acre-research park.  

    4. What advice do you have for someone considering a move or return to Iowa? 

    Do it!  Iowa is a great place to be! If you are considering a job or entrepreneurship opportunity in the state, I’d advise you to take it. 

    From a student perspective, Iowa State is a very welcoming place for a major research university.  It is really the best of both worlds: a student focused environment where you can easily engage with faculty, as well as have the opportunity to get involved in research at the undergraduate and graduate level.  

    5. Please share three recommendations of things to do or places to go in Iowa. 

    Take in an Iowa State football game at Jack Trice stadium.  The atmosphere – both in tailgating before the game and the energy inside the stadium — is a sight to behold.    

    Experience “Hilton Magic” during an Iowa State men’s or women’s basketball game. There is nothing like Hilton Coliseum when it is in full flight.  

    Drive around the state. My wife and I have enjoyed getting out and visiting wonderful towns and beautiful scenery. Dubuque is one of our favorites, located on the Mississippi River in eastern Iowa. 

    Published December 2023. 

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