Several years ago there was a visioning process — now defunct— led by UI President Bruce Harreld, Rockwell Collins (now Collins Aerospace) CEO Kelly Ortberg and US Bank Regional President Nancy Kasparek striving to identify important common regional industry sectors and themes that could be a galvanizing point for the Corridor.
Many of the region’s pockets of economic strength including biosciences, trucking and advanced manufacturing were identified. Education technology or EdTech wasn’t on the initial list, to our dismay. It is, however, quickly transitioning from a sleepy industry cluster to one that the region might very well hang its hat on.
ACT is leading the charge by attempting to change from a staid educational testing company to an educational technology company under the leadership of company CEO Marten Roorda and a new crop of leaders. ACT was founded as a spinoff from the University of Iowa and is one of the premier nonprofit organizations in Iowa, as well as one of the state’s best-known brands.
ACT has made a handful of strategic acquisitions over the past several years, primarily in technology companies, and aims to continue this strategic investment. ACT has even created a new division called ACT Next that is responsible for reimagining educational learning and assessments.
To be sure there are also a number of other sizable companies in the Corridor in the education cluster like Pearson Education Measurement, Ruffalo Noel Levitz (RNL), and Stamats. There are also a myriad of newer education companies in the region like Higher Learning Technologies (HLT), Leepfrog Technologies, Foundations in Learning, Pear Deck, Converge Consulting and HigherEducation.com, to name a few.
While advanced manufacturing, insurance, trucking and biosciences are without a doubt bedrock industries in our region, they aren’t particularly unique to the Corridor. EdTech is unique, and might just be a regional industry differentiator.
State and local leaders are starting to acknowledge this emergent cluster and its tremendous opportunity. The director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority Debi Durham, Mark Nolte, the president of the Iowa City Area Development Company and Iowa Startup Accelerator’s Eric Engelmann are getting behind this cluster with support and various initiatives, and so should the rest of the region. How can you help?
Ruffalo acquires Converge
Whenever you have a dynamic industry like EdTech there are bound to be some acquisitions like the aforementioned ones by ACT. The most recent acquisition in the Corridor was that of Converge, one of the region’s fastest growing companies, by RNL.
RNL announced May 2 that it has acquired Converge, the Cedar Rapids-based digital higher education marketing firm, in order to provide more solutions for college student recruitment and marketing.
RNL, also based in Cedar Rapids, is a leading provider of services for higher education enrollment, fundraising and student success formed by the 2014 merger of RuffaloCODY and Noel Levitz.
Converge has repeatedly been recognized on the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies list, and locally, by the CBJ as one of the Corridor’s Fastest Growing Companies.