As the co-chair of the Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee for the Iowa Legislature, Muscatine Senator Mark Lofgren works on and supports many programs that grow business innovations throughout Muscatine County and the state. On Thursday, September 26th, Lofgren visited Iowa State University (ISU) to speak at the ribbon cutting ceremony for their Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) Digital Manufacturing Lab powered by Alliant Energy (DML).
The DML represents a unique opportunity for Iowa businesses to experiment with new manufacturing equipment and processes before introducing them in their own factories. In particular, the DML will let companies experiment with both cooperative and automated technologies to streamline the production process and make up for worker shortages in some industries. ISU hopes that by providing the DML, companies can adapt to new types of technology more easily because they will already have experience with it. Additionally, ISU will have access to the DML to further their research. Students in some majors may also get to conduct research using the DML’s technologies as well, giving them valuable hands-on experience.
During his speech, Lofgren praised ISU for investing in such a state-of-the-art facility and predicted that the DML will make a significant positive impact on Iowa businesses moving forward. “For the last three years, our committee has been blown away with ISU and their futuristic focus. They totally get that you need to be up to speed for change and to embrace it,” he stated. He continued, “this lab will help efficiency, reduce waste, and help to ensure the odds of our companies prospering. By helping our businesses make better decisions, we eliminate the perpetual ‘spinning of the wheels’ due to information overload. This lab will help them through the knowledge building process, as well as the adoption phase of automation technology, and will allow our businesses to gain and maintain a competitive advantage in our global economy.”
Lofgren also took time to celebrate the cooperation between ISU, Alliant, and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), an organization that works to support and encourage Iowa businesses. “Thank you to Iowa State University, Alliant Energy, and to the Iowa Economic Development Authority (under the direction of Debi Durham) for their leadership and amazing collaboration. We, the legislature, support your efforts,” he said. Through partnerships like these, Lofgren knows that programs supporting businesses of all sizes across the state can thrive.
After Lofgren finished his speech, he got a chance to see part of the DML during its open house. Over the course of the next several months, ISU will begin allowing interested companies to come visit and tour the DML to learn how its services could benefit them and help them expand. As businesses across the state begin utilizing the DML’s facilities, Lofgren’s thoughts about it benefiting Iowa businesses will come to fruition. Soon, manufacturers in Muscatine and beyond, as well as area students who go on to ISU will benefit from this unprecedented learning opportunity.