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Google Announces $1 Million Impact Challenge to Create Economic Opportunity Across Iowa

April 16, 2019

DES MOINES — Today, Google launched the Google.org Impact Challenge Iowa, the tech company’s first Iowa challenge inviting nonprofits throughout the state to submit proposals for bold ideas to grow economic opportunity in their local communities. The Impact Challenge was announced at the “Grow with Google” digital skills training event, hosted by the Des Moines Public Library (photos for media use).

“Our hope with the Google.org Impact Challenge Iowa is to help Iowa nonprofits bring their great ideas to life,” said Dan Harbeke, Head of Public Policy and External Affairs at Google in Council Bluffs. “Iowa is an incredibly diverse state, with a wide variety of issues that impact different communities and a huge amount of local talent seeking to solve unique challenges.”

Here’s how it works: Qualifying Iowa nonprofits are invited to submit their proposalsfor their most innovative ideas to grow economic opportunity in their community. Together with a panel of local judges, Google will review the applications and choose five winners who will receive $175,000 in grant funding and training from Google.After the five winners are announced, Iowans will be invited to voteon which project they believe will have the greatest economic impact.

“With the lowest unemployment rate in the country, innovative programs like the Impact Challenge are critical for preparing Iowans with new skills for cutting-edge careers in the high-demand 21st century economy,” said Governor Kim Reynolds. “This program creates economic opportunities for Iowa families and their communities which can help us sustain strong growth for years to come.”

The winner of that public vote will receive an additional $125,000 in funding. In total, Google.org will grant $1 million to local nonprofit organizations.

“With record low unemployment in our state, Iowa’s job creators are looking to tap into a workforce that is equipped to meet their needs and help them compete in a global market,” said Senator Joni Ernst. “It’s my hope that this initiative will help keep Iowa’s workforce on a path toward continued prosperity.”

The Iowa Impact Challenge local advisor panel includes:  

Dr. Dan Kinney

President, Iowa Western Community College

Georgia Van Gundy

Executive Director and Board Secretary, Iowa Business Council

Monica Chavez-Silva

Board Chair of Iowa Council of Foundations & Assistant Vice President for Community Enhancement, Grinnell College

Sherry Ristau

President, Quad Cities Community Foundation

Tej Dhawan

Chief Data Officer, Principal Financial Group

“Nonprofits are the quiet, tireless drivers of a community's conscience,” said Tej Dhawan, Chief Data Officer of Principal Financial Group. “I am excited to be a part of Google's initiative that cares for and feeds this important part of our community.”

While the $1 million Impact Challenge is the second statewide to date after Illinois, Google.org has offered economic-opportunity focused Impact Challenge grants in Cleveland, Columbia, Oklahoma City and Pittsburgh.

“The Impact Challenge is a unique opportunity for local nonprofits to showcase bold thinking and receive resources to take their ideas from plans to reality,” said Monica Chavez-Silva, Board Chair of Iowa Council of Foundations & Assistant Vice President for Community Enhancement at Grinnell College. “I’ve seen how we can make real change in strengthening Iowa’s communities when we all work together, and it’s exciting to have a new partner at the table as part of that effort.”

The Impact Challenge was announced this morning in Des Moines at the first stop of a three-city Grow with Google tour that includes Council Bluffs and Davenport. Through Grow with Google, the company’s aim is to help everyone across America – those who make up the workforce of today, the students who will drive the workforce of tomorrow and the small businesses that keep our economy strong – access the best of Google’s training and tools to grow their skills, careers, and businesses. In Iowa, the Grow with Google team will provide hands-on training to hundreds of Iowans through 12 different workshops and nearly a hundred one on one coaching sessions.

With its tour, Grow with Google aims to help address the skills gap by preparing Americans for middle-skill jobs, positions that require some skills but not four year degrees. According to the National Middle Skills Initiative, middle skills jobs account to 56% of Iowa’s labor force. A recent study by Burning Glass and Capital One found thatmore than 8 in 10 middle-skill jobs (82%) require digital skills. Overall, middle-skill jobs average $20 per hour.

Google has a data center in Iowa and has invested more than $2.5 billion and established a long-term commitment to the region and state. Celebrating 10 years in Iowa this year, Google has awarded more than $1.1 million to local schools and nonprofits since 2009.  In their 2017 Economic Impact Report, Google announced that 8,200 businesses in Iowa generated $899 million in economic activity by using Google’s search and advertising tools. The full reportdetails Google’s economic impact state-by-state, and features the stories of businesses fueling that growth, creating job opportunities, and transforming their communities.

Iowa nonprofit organizations can find more information on the Google.org Impact Challenge and submit their applications by visiting g.co/iowachallenge. The deadline for submissions is May 17th at 11:59 PM Central. The five winners are expected to be named in the fall of 2019.