Tue, Feb 20, 2018

​Article courtesy of Ames Tribune

By Dan Mika, Staff Writer, Ames Tribune

Billi Hunt, the new director of the Cultivation Corridor, is planning for a major promotional push for the group a few days into her new job.

Hunt was named to the Cultivation Corridor’s executive director role late last month. She was most recently a government affairs manager with DuPont for 19 years, focusing on lobbying and partnerships in Midwest states. She was previously a delegate member for the group.

Hunt replaces founding executive director Brent Willett, who left the post last August to become CEO of the Iowa Health Care Association.

Hunt, an Iowa native and ISU graduate, said the job fulfills her trifecta of loves for agriculture, ISU and the state in general. She said Willett did a good job in building the group’s identity, and it’s now her job to spread it across the state.

“Eighty percent of my time is to focus on brand enhancement, economic development, fostering innovation,” she said.

The Corridor, founded in 2014, is an economic development group that works on attracting agriculture and biotechnology companies to the state. It has backing from the Ames Chamber of Commerce, Iowa State University, the Greater Des Moines Partnership and several private sector companies.

The strategy she hopes to take the Corridor out to the community through “grassroots” outreach with local groups within the next two years, speaking with individuals, businesses and civic groups, along with a boosted social media campaign.

She said local residents that don’t work in agriculture or technology jobs or have interest in economic development issues don’t know what the Corridor is or how it can benefit the region. If more people knew about what the Corridor does, it would make the region more attractive for people potentially looking to move, Hunt said.

“Those who work in the industry, those who are trying to move things forward understand it very well, but a neighbor two houses down might not know what the Cultivation Corridor is,” she said. “We have to explain that, we have to bring them into the fold.”

Hunt said her background in agriculture will be helpful for economic developers in Ames or Des Moines when they attempt to attract investment and companies in the agricultural or biotech sectors based on her existing relationships developed at DuPont and her former job as agriculture coordinator with what was then the Greater Des Moines Chamber of Commerce (that organization later rebranded as the Greater Des Moines Partnership.)

Hunt also believes the Corridor and its support of the Ag Startup Engine, based at the ISU Research Park, makes the group’s work important for the farmers that most benefit from those products, whether they help farmers cut down on input costs or give them historical data on how their plots are doing.

“Some of these small entrepreneurs in the state that are doing some really cool things,” she said. “...They’re new, they’re innovative.”

Read the full article at amestrib.com.

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