How we’re supporting economic opportunity in Iowa

For some, Iowa may call to mind images of rolling corn fields, or the Field of Dreams. But those in the know will tell you that the Hawkeye state has a storied history of technological innovation. The first electronic digital computer was created in a lab at Iowa State and Lee de Forest, the “Father of Radio,” was born and raised in Council Bluffs. Perhaps most impressively,  sliced bread is an Iowan invention, with the first single loaf bread-slicing machine patented here in 1928.

In 2009, Iowa also became home to a Google Data Center, where I—along with hundreds of Iowans—work to connect billions of people around the world to Google. When someone logs onto Gmail, watches a YouTube video or searches for an answer to some burning question, they might not think of Iowa, but they should.

With such a strong track record of fostering creative answers to difficult questions, Iowa is the perfect place for Google to kick off a statewide $1 million Impact Challenge, where we’re inviting local nonprofits to share their most ambitious ideas to create economic opportunity in their community. Then, a panel of local advisors will select the top five to receive a $175,000 grant to bring their ideas to life. Our advisors, listed below, represent all corners of the state:

  • Dr. Dan Kinney, President, Iowa Western Community College
  • Georgia Van Gundy, Executive Director and Board Secretary, Iowa Business Council
  • Monica Chavez-Silva, Assistant Vice President for Community Enhancement, Grinnell College
  • Sherry Ristau, President, Quad Cities Community Foundation
  • Tej Dhawan, Chief Data Officer, Principal Financial Group

To cap off the competition, Google will invite Iowans to select one of the five projects they believe will have the greatest impact.

We kicked the Challenge off this morning in Des Moines at the first stop of a three-city Grow with Google Iowa Tour, where we’re teaming up with local libraries and partner organizations across the state to offer free trainings so that Iowans have the opportunity to learn digital skills to grow their careers or businesses. Tomorrow and the following day, we’ll visit libraries in Council Bluffs and Davenport as part of a larger commitment to support economic opportunity in America and bring in-person digital skills workshops to libraries to all 50 states.

Iowa nonprofit organizations can find more information on the Impact Challenge and submit their applications by visiting The deadline for submissions is May 17th at 11:59 p.m. CT. We’re expecting to name the five winners in the fall of 2019. Considering the sliced bread precedent, the bar is being set pretty high.