TechWorks incubator opens in Iowa

By Susanne Retka Schill
A new bioplastics business incubator housed on a former Deere & Co. campus opened in Waterloo, Iowa. Sponsored by Greater Cedar Valley Alliance, Cedar Valley TechWorks will be a virtual and physical regional center for the development of bioproducts and the bioenergy industries. Bioplastics developer MCG BioComposites LLC has been hired to provide marketing and industrial recruitment services for the business incubator.

"The TechWorks concept has been in development for over five years in partnership with Deere & Co., which provided the land, buildings and various resources," said Sam McCord, president and chief executive officer of MCG. "[Deere & Co.] has an interest in the project to explore additional opportunities in the commercialization of biomass into bioproducts, bioprocesses and bioenergy." MCG will become one of the tenants at Cedar Valley TechWorks, and MCG staff and technical staff from Deere will help with the testing and commercialization of bioplastic and bioenergy applications.

McCord said one of the first projects underway at Cedar Valley TechWorks is the development of a bioplastics pilot production facility and testing laboratory. An entrepreneur or development company will be able to produce their bioplastic formulations, make sample parts and test the physical properties.

There has been keen interest in the incubator. A Biomass Magazine Web exclusive announcing the center's opening generated 15 inquiries within a few days, McCord said. Two prospective companies were scheduled to inspect the center right after New Year's Day. In addition to entrepreneurs and start-ups, Cedar Valley TechWorks expects to work with existing companies interested in replacing conventional materials with biomass-based materials.

The first tenant ready to move into the facility is the University of Northern Iowa's National Ag-Based Lubricant Center, McCord said. There is room to house 12 to 15 businesses in the first 150,000-square-foot building, with a second building available for an equal number of businesses as Cedar Valley TechWorks grows.