For many years the University of Northern Iowa has taken an active interest in offering consultant and training services to businesses and community organizations. Most of those services were located administratively in the College of Business Administration and physically in the Curris Business Building. But the Curris Business Building had insufficient space to house the services efficiently.
In January 2004, the university selected InVision Architecture of Waterloo to design a building to house these services. The new building would be located south of University Avenue, near the Center for Energy and Environmental Education. Planners conceived this area to be UNI's new "public campus" for services that tended to be directed outward toward the community. The area would also allow easier parking for visitors who would be using these community services. The project would be funded by federal revenue sources and the Iowa Values Fund.
On September 16, 2004, Congressman Jim Nussle announced that the US Department of Energy had approved $2.415 million in funds for the project. Federal funding would likely increase to $3.1 million. The Iowa Values Fund would contribute $1.5 million.
The building was planned to house the Institute for Decision Making, the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, Conference and Event Services, the Grants Office, and Iowa State University Extension offices, as well as facilities in which new student businesses could develop and grow. The first phase of the project would include about 34,300 square feet of space. Additional phases would be built if further federal and state money became available.
On June 18, 2005, ground was broken for the new building. UNI President Koob, US Senator Charles Grassley, Representative Willard Jenkins, Regents president Michael Gartner, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance board member Dee Vandeventer, executive director of UNI Business and Community Services Randy Pilkington, and student Megan Kemp spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony. Construction was scheduled for completion for the fall of 2006.
In November 2006, the Regents approved an increase of $962,000 to the budget for the project. This increase allowed the second floor of the building to be completed. Earlier plans had allowed the space to be built but to be left empty, pending additional funding. The Iowa Waste Reduction Center and additional student business incubators would occupy this additional space. The increased funding moved the total project budget to $5.6 million.
The Business and Community Services Building opened in May 2007. It was dedicated at 10AM on Saturday, August 25, 2007. At the time of its dedication, the building housed the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, the Innovation Incubator, the Student Incubator, the Institute for Decision Making, the Iowa Waste Reduction Center, the Recycling and Reuse Technology Transfer Center, the Intellectual Property Office, and the Office of Technology Transfer and Business Incubation. In an August 26, 2007, editorial, the Waterloo Courier, praised the new building:
The new building is not only a more efficient way for UNI to deal with its business and entrepreneurial endeavors--it's a new symbol of what our state leaders expect from our Regent universities.
The business incubator portion of the building, which originally included eight suites, proved popular. That portion of the Center provided a business address, utilities, office equipment, and a limited amount of legal and accounting assistance to fledgling companies. The general rule was that a company would stay in the Center for as long as two years before moving out onto its own. Far Reach Technologies was the first client to rent space. The company remained in the building until it moved to its own location on Main Street in Cedar Falls in December 2008. In the fall of 2009 five additional suites were opened. Space in the incubator suites is available to entrepreneurs from both inside and outside the university community.
Compiled by University Archivist Gerald L. Peterson, May 2004, with substantial revision, August 2007; last updated, January 28, 2015 (GP); photo and citation updated by Graduate Assistant Eliza Mussmann, February 11, 2022.