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CBJ Report: NewBoCo expanding innovation initiatives

CBJ Report: NewBoCo expanding innovation initiatives

Every week, the Corridor Business Journal shares stories it's working on with CBS 2 News. Here are some of their top stories that will appear in Monday's edition of the CBJ.

State introduces new closing cost assistance program

Gov. Kim Reynolds today announced the launch of a new but limited closing cost assistance program for Iowa homebuyers.

Offered through the Iowa Finance Authority (IFA), the program will offer homebuyers using conventional financing $1,500 in closing cost assistance. It is available to those making 80 percent or less of an area's median income, meaning less than $63,920 in Linn County and $69,440 in Johnson County.

The program is expected to assist about 230 homebuyers across the state, the IFA stated on its website.

The IFA offers several other programs to assist first-time and income-limited homebuyers, including $2,500 down payment assistance for new homeowners, and $5,000 for eligible service members and veterans.

The assistance program is part of a new campaign, called #OwnItIowa, hosted by the IFA and the Iowa Association of REALTORS and designed to encourage home ownership in the state. Residents who visit IowaHouseHunt.com through Aug. 31 can also enter to win $2,500 in cash.

NewBoCo expanding innovation initiatives rapidly

NewBoCo Executive Director Eric Engelmann says the nonprofit known for its Iowa Startup Accelerator is exploring a nonprofit innovation program, a social good accelerator, housing for residents and joint projects with Cedar Rapids' MedQuarter District.

Mr. Engelmann on Tuesday delivered a progress report to the city of Cedar Rapids, which helps fund the nonprofit. He was upbeat, describing a cascade of new initiatives and growth to 18 employees in three years.

"It's unusual," Mr. Engelmann said. "If we were a for-profit company, we would be on the [CBJ's] Fastest Growing Companies list."

Among the many NewBoCo initiatives Mr. Engelmann described is an expansion of NewBoCo's Delta V Code School to some smaller communities across the state that lack the resources to create their own adult software coding programs.

After starting an angel investor group to help fund startups, Mr. Engelmann said NewBoCo is also looking at a "micro venture capital pool" to enable smaller investments in Iowa Startup Accelerator companies.

A variety of educational innovation initiatives include bringing in world-class teachers to learn agile teaching methods, he said.

Council members reacted positively, with at least one saying they'd like to convince more entrepreneurs in the Iowa Startup Accelerator to make Cedar Rapids their permanent home.

CR native led development of Google's new job search feature

Online job searches became a little easier last week, after Google launched a new feature that lets users find listings on virtually all major employment websites and employer home pages.

The upgrade eliminates frustrating duplication and allows users to tailor ongoing searches to their specific needs, according to a Cedar Rapids native who supervised its design.

"The one time I remember really thinking about Google as a product was my own job-search experience," said Nick Zakrasek. Fresh out of Brown University in Rhode Island, Mr. Zakrasek found himself wanting more than simply links to other job-search sites that happened to have listings with identical search terms.

"Those were good job search sites, but I really wanted Google to organize all the job-search sites across the web," he said. "There's a lot of duplicate information there."

A decade later, Mr. Zakrasek was able to do something about his frustrations as lead product manager at Google in Mountain View, California. While there, he worked on what the company calls the "knowledge graph" - essentially Google's way of organizing information about the world. He thought the same function could be applied to job-search queries, despite the added complexity of such searches.

Designing the new feature meant removing employers' duplicate listings posted to multiple sites and creating algorithms to categorize job postings. Now, when a user finds an interesting opening, Google directs them to the site to file an application. When a job appears on more than one site, Google links to the one with the most complete listing.

We’ve got the full story on our website.

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