Opening doors

John Lawrence’s message from July 24, 2018

When you approach a closed door you have two options – you can open it and go through or leave it closed and stop. In terms of economic development, our state does better when we open the door. That is what our Latino business and entrepreneurship team has been doing since 2003, and that is why the team has received the ISU Award for Achievement in Economic Development in Iowa. Community development specialists Lisa Bates, Himar Hernandez, Victor Oyervides, Jill Sokness, Scott Timm and Jon Wolseth have impacted more than 150 businesses. In the past three years, they have broadened their scope to work with not only Latino entrepreneurs, but also entrepreneurs from other minority business groups, including African-American and refugee populations. Did you know?

  • The team helps entrepreneurs with comprehensive, business improvement practices and strategies. As a result, minority-owned businesses have been able to apply for and receive loans, renovate their store façades, get required permits from city hall and ultimately expand their businesses.
  • Most minority-owned businesses are located in downtown areas, so the team works broadly with these and other business owners to invigorate downtown revitalization efforts.
  • The team has linked minority-owned grocery stores in eight Iowa communities to local food producers and farmers. This initiative has resulted in more markets for local producers and greater availability of locally grown produce for underserved populations.
  • The team also opens the door for ISU students, helping to link them to minority-owned business communities for applied learning.

These examples are real success stories for Iowa State, ISU Extension and Outreach, and Iowa communities. Mark your calendars for Sept. 14, when the Latino business and entrepreneurship team and other award recipients will be honored during the university’s annual awards ceremony.

We’re opening another door through translation and interpretation. ISU Extension and Outreach has committed resources to fund a half-time position to provide language translation and interpretation support for our educational programs. Juan Ramirez, who has been and will continue as youth and families education assistant program coordinator in Dallas County, now will also provide language translation and digital voiceover support for our organization. He also will serve as an interpreter for scheduled events in which he is an identified trainer, such as ServSafe, Juntos and Maize. Juan, who is an Iowa State graduate, is fluent in English and Spanish, and is proficient in French and Portuguese.

You may submit your translation request by emailing Juan at In your email message please include your name, project name, program name, and date that you need the translation completed or date of your event (for interpretation support). For translation, please attach your content as a Word document or PDF.
After Juan receives and reviews your request, he will provide you an estimated completion date based on the size of the task, date received, due date, complexity of the content, and the number of requests in the pipeline ahead of yours.
Jeff Jackson, Dallas County executive director, and Ross Wilburn, our diversity officer, will supervise Juan’s workflow. For more information, contact Jeff ( or Ross (

One more note: Many thanks to Deb Sellers, Barbara Woods and Keli Tallman for compiling ISU Extension and Outreach data for the 2018 Healthy Iowans Progress Report. The report, as well as Iowa’s revised Health Improvement Plan 2017-2021, is available on the Healthy Iowans website.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

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