John Pappajohn

Gift Aims To Foster Iowa Entrepreneurs

Des Moines Register, September 6, 1996
By Mark Siebert

John Pappajohn is donating millions to create centers that will help people start their own businesses.

Des Moines businessman John Pappajohn plans to donate millions of dollars to start a network of entrepreneurial centers at Iowa’s three state universities, Drake University and North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City, college officials say.

Gov. Terry Branstad’s office said Thursday that a "significant announcement concerning Iowa’s economic future" would be made in five Iowa cities on Monday.

The announcements would benefit those communities and the rest of the state through the creation of new jobs and businesses, the governor’s office said.

Branstad spokesman Eric Woolson declined to provide more details.

But several university officials confirmed Thursday that announcements would be made on the five campuses unveiling the Pappajohn gift and the establishment of the network of entrepreneurial centers.

The total amount of Pappajohn’s gift was not disclosed. But officials at one school confirmed they would receive $1 million.

Pappajohn could not be reached for comments Thursday at his downtown Des Moines office. Pappajohn is President of Equity Dynamics Inc., which specializes in financing start-up companies in the healthcare industry.

He is also a major contributor to the University of Iowa, his alma mater, having provided almost $10 million for a new building for the College of Business Administration, a pavilion at University Hospitals and other projects.

In January, Pappajohn gave the U of I $1.5 million to expand the Institute for Entrepreneurial Management. The university renamed the institute the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center.

Gary Fethke, U of I business dean, said he did not know how the centers would work on the other campuses. But in Iowa City, the gift is being spent over three years to provide educational programs that help home-grown entrepreneurs. "I hope in the big picture -- in a relatively minimal period of time -- we can start businesses that create value for the state," Fethke said.

The U of I center does not provide start-up capital. That, Fethke said, will be left up to people like Pappajohn.

Instead, the center will provide instruction on how to develop a business plan or how to apply for patents. The courses will be offered during evenings and weekends so they will be accessible to people who likely already have jobs.

Since the U of I entrepreneur center was launched first, it might coordinate some of the network’s activities, Fethke said.

Each center likely will have its own distinct focus. For example, Fethke said, one center might specialize in helping entrepreneurs by developing case studies of successful start-up businesses.

"What we want to see -- and what John wants to see -- is activity" Fethke said. "We want to see business start in Iowa."

The only community college receiving the gift will be North Iowa Area Community College. Pappajohn, who grew up in Mason City, graduated from the school in 1948 when it was Mason City Junior College.

Daryl Holbrook, director of development for North Iowa, declined comment Thursday on the impact such a center would have.

"According to the governor’s office," Holbrook said, "we’re not to release anything until Monday."

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