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Universities partner to promote rural investments

AUDIO: Matt McKenna, executive in residence at Georgetown University

Two unversities host a rural investment workshop in Des Moines.

Iowa State University’s College of Business and Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business partnered to host a conference for entrepreneurs and rural investments.

The conference is part of the Rural Opportunity Initiative. It is housed at Georgetown University’s Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI), which is part of the McDonough School of Business. Matthew McKenna is executive in residence at Georgetown University, who started ROI.

“The premise is that there is money to invest in the rural economy but those investments aren’t taking place. ROI is trying to find those hurdles that block investment and solve them to encourage a freer flow of capital,” McKenna.

He says there are many hurdles to jump over. The easiest one to explain is scale.

“Many of the investment opportunities in rural America, particularly for smaller companies, are small. Today we’re going to speak with companies looking for $1 million to $3 million investments. Many of the investors or venture capitalists on the East Coast are looking to make $100 million investments or $50 million investments. (They) won’t take the time to look at these smaller companies.”

McKenna adds one way to solve this problem is to create intermediaries or capital funds to make the smaller investments but the capital funds will seek the larger investments from the institutional investors.

The conference took place at the World Food Prize in downtown Des Moines Thursday.