Call UI for IT.

A new initiative from the University of Iowa provides IT consulting services to small businesses throughout Iowa, and new offices were opened today, Tuesday, Jan. 13, in Sioux City and Council Bluffs to join the original office that opened last year in Iowa City.

UI Partners provides a free technology assessment performed by a professional IT consultant, who then leads a team of students that find the right fix. The Iowa City location has worked with more than 70 clients, mostly in eastern and central Iowa, including a furniture store, winery, quilt shop, a church, and a farm.

Dan Reed

Dan Reed

The centers are the first in a network of small business assistance planned by the University of Iowa throughout the state in the coming years.

“UI Partners was created by the University of Iowa specifically to help small Iowa companies innovate and grow, using practical insights and ideas drawn from our faculty, staff, and students to solve their technology challenges,” says Dan Reed, the University of Iowa’s vice president for research and economic development. “It is also the first step in building a statewide network of integrated centers to assist small businesses.”

UI Partners’ Iowa City office has served more than 70 clients already since opening last spring. One of them—Pine Needles, a Cedar Rapids quilting and sewing shop—was looking for a way to get more use out of five digital TV monitors.

The screens are set up around the store used to advertise specials and for educational programming to show customers how to use their new sewing machines and embroidery software. “The monitors were functional, but we wanted to optimize them and do more,” says Amos Werderman, director of digital marketing.

“We wanted something less cumbersome, more streamlined.” UI Partners’ consultants started working on the problem in June and by the end of August a fix was in place. They added AppleTVs, which allowed the monitors to be programmed individually more easily, and improved the Ethernet connection to improve stability. The UI Partners technicians also fully tested the system, installed it with minimal interruption, and trained everyone on how to use it.

“We’re happy with how it turned out,” Werderman says. “We’ve been able to do things we couldn’t before, and we think often think about it as part of our educational and marketing components.”

One such component, he says, is using the monitors to help roll out their new brand as the store changes its name to Inspired to Sew.

The service also gives the student employees an opportunity to work on real-world business challenges.“We can help any business with fewer than 50 employees to improve their information technology performance and make sure a recovery plan is in place,” Yearian.

“Students get to work with multiple businesses to assist with IT and business strategy projects,” says Yearian. The current client service team includes University of Iowa students Nick Dykstra of Sioux Center and Amanda Greene of Gurnee, Illinois, recent UI graduate Kiley Murphy of Davenport, and Kirkwood College student Edgar Lopez from Davenport. All the students are hoping to pursue careers in IT and are looking to expand their skills with their UI Partners internship.

Dykstra says what drew him to apply for the position with UI Partners was the wide range of technological experience the job would supply.

“I liked the broad range of duties the job included, from web design to different programming scenarios to hardware setups—and working with the small businesses as well,” Dykstra says.

The newly-opened Sioux City and Council Bluffs offices will hire students from colleges in those areas, as well as further cement the relationship between community colleges and the University of Iowa.

"Western Iowa Tech is excited to expand on our partnership with the University of Iowa,” says Terry Murrell, president of Western Iowa Tech Community College. “This project will offer our students a great opportunity to apply the skills they have learned and help our region's small businesses grow."

Pat Daugherty

Pat Daughtery

“This partnership with the University of Iowa expands our capacity to serve students and area residents in information technology and entrepreneurship,” says Dan Kinney, president of Iowa Western Community College. “The University of Iowa IT consultant position will compliment and strengthen the services we are currently providing in those areas. We are looking forward to getting the partnership up and running.”

Another office is planned for Des Moines later next year, with more offices planned for the future.

Craig Engelke

Craig Engelke

The Council Bluffs office is located in 121 Ashley Hall, 2700 College Rd., and is overseen by IT professional Pat Dougherty. He can be reached at james-p-dougherty@uiowa.edu. The Sioux City office is located in The Security Institute Building, 4647 Stone Ave., and its resident IT professional is Craig Engelke. He can be reached at craig-engelke@uiowa.edu.

More information about UI Partners can be found atuipartners.uiowa.edu or by calling 1-844-847-2786.

Article originally published in Iowa Now.