Growth at ISU Research Park meets needs of employees, community

If you build it, they will come.

This may be an over-used movie phrase, especially here in Iowa. But it's a mantra that Iowa State University Research Park and university leaders have taken to heart, and it's working.

If you build it …

The ISU Research Park was established in 1987 south of U.S. Highway 30 in Ames as a not-for-profit corporation operated by a board of directors, appointed by Iowa State and the ISU Foundation.

Today, the research park has grown to more than 70 companies, 1,700 employees and 200 acres, with an additional 200 acres ready for development. With more companies recognizing the advantages of partnering with Iowa State on research and development initiatives, the research park is expected to employ 5,000 people by 2025.

As was the case 30 years ago, ISU Research Park continues to help existing Iowa-based companies develop their potential, as well as nurture new scientific businesses with cutting-edge ideas, innovations and technologies. For example, John Deere announced last week that it's opening a strategic technology office at the research park to focus on developing integrated solutions for the company's agriculture and turf, and construction and forestry divisions. John Deere joins other businesses that are innovators of animal health, biotechnology, software development, genetic engineering, medical imaging and more.

… They will come

More companies create a need for additional talented employees, including ISU students seeking opportunities to participate in technological breakthroughs. To compete globally for the best individuals, the research park must offer attractive amenities.

"We want employees to feel part of something that is more than just a work environment," said Steve Carter, president of ISU Research Park. "We want to meet the needs of these companies as they attract and retain people.


According to Carter, employees value access to conveniences and services that balance work and life.  

"These companies are looking for talented individuals straight out of school, such as ISU students, and those employees want to conduct their life activities in close proximity to where their work is," Carter said.

Facilities in various construction phases to help satisfy this goal are:

  • Provisions Lot F, a bistro-style restaurant at the north end of the research park, owned and operated by the owners of The Café, located in Somerset. The eatery will serve patrons morning through evening (exact serving hours are yet to be determined) beginning in late April or early May. The restaurant eventually will offer bakery and catering services.
  • Ames Racquet and Fitness, a full-service workout facility, is nearing completion southwest of the Economic Development Core Facility, on the south end of the research park. It's scheduled to open July 15.
  • McFarland Clinic recently announced that it's breaking ground on a clinic northwest of the Economic Development Core Facility at the beginning of April. Up to 13 physicians will practice family medicine, sports medicine and optometry at the facility. Physical therapy services also will be available. The clinic is scheduled to open in spring 2018.
  • Lily Pad Learning Center, a daycare facility, also will be housed in the new McFarland Clinic building. The center will serve 125 children -- infants through prekindergarten -- and will open in summer 2018.  
  • Story County Conservation Board is partnering with the research park to develop outdoor learning and recreation areas. The Tedesco Environmental Learning Corridor will occupy about 30 acres inside the research park between Workiva, to the north, and the Economic Development Core Facility, to the south. New bike and walking paths will connect to Ames' existing trail systems and the High Trestle Bridge Trail. Tree clearing begins this week. Completion will take from three to five years.

Community outreach

ISU Research Park administrators have developed various events to encourage Ames community members, including ISU faculty, staff and students, to visit the park and its facilities. Some upcoming events include a blood drive (Sept. 27), early summer bike race (date TBD) and the next Lucky Star Market, an art and vintage collections show scheduled for May 13 (9 a.m.-4 p.m., parking lot of ISU Research Building 2). 

"We're working to get greater community involvement so everyone can see what's happening out here," Carter said. "The research park is a bridge between ISU and Ames and the central Iowa business community."

In the future, it's possible the "if you build it, they will come" mantra could flip-flop into "if they come, you will build it." With the number of employees at the research park expected to double over the next few years, Carter said it's likely new amenities and activities will continue to sprout up to satisfy the needs of both research park employees and the surrounding community.

"We know there's going to be more people in the research park in the future," Carter said. "We want to get a feel for what else will be needed and what will be good for our community and our companies."


Iowa State University Research Park. Submitted photo.