The word “innovative” is an adjective that describes new ideas and methods, advanced and creative thinking. When we extend this description to an organization or community, it speaks to their culture and how they deal with challenges; create differentiation; and serve their employees, customers or citizens.

My name is Jeff Kelly and I have been part of the Sioux Center community for about a year and a half. I am the director of the K and K Dooyema Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Dordt University. I am also a professor in the business department, teaching management and entrepreneurship courses. Dordt recently launched a new minor and specialization in Entrepreneurial Studies and students have embraced this offering with almost 30 students reporting in the first semester.

My past experience in the corporate world has allowed me to witness and understand some common characteristics of healthy cultures that lead to innovative communities. Common traits involve creative and bold thinking, a strong understanding of your product or service differentiation, knowledge of the competitive landscape, and a growth mindset.

From my perspective, Sioux Center is a community that embodies the traits that result in continued success. It has a healthy mix of for-profit and non-profit businesses and organizations that support the needs of our community. The partnership between Sioux Center and Dordt is innovative and provides beneficial resources for both entities. Sharing facilities, student internships, hiring graduates, and numerous projects and activities allow our students to engage with our community in both academic and non-academic settings.

As a continuation of this great partnership, the K and K Dooyema Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is setting up “Project Elevate”, an outreach program that will provide students with the opportunity to put their learning into practice while serving those in the surrounding community. We will launch this program in June.

Project Elevate is designed to provide students with the opportunity to engage with companies to help solve challenges organizations may encounter. Project Elevate has three areas where we can help businesses:

n Launch — Address the challenges and opportunities that come with a startup chapter of any business, such as creating a business plan or effective marketing.

n Innovate — Meet the challenges and seize the opportunities that drive innovation. For example, ask questions such as, are we meeting the needs of our customers today and in the future?

n Culminate — Address the dynamics involved in succession planning. Establish a viable plan to sell or transfer the business to the next group of owners or determine the value of your business.

We want to help local businesses in one of these three areas, providing students with authentic work experience and service to the local community.

We look forward to continuing our partnership and supporting the culture that has made our community so strong, differentiated and welcoming.

Jeff Kelly de LeMars is the director of the Kim and Kathy Dooyema Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Dordt University at the Sioux Center.