Story County Supervisor Rick Sanders has been named president of the Iowa State Research Park.
Following a nationwide search, Sanders will succeed 18-year president Steve Carter, who retired in December. Warren Madden, former senior vice president for business and finance at Iowa State, led the Research Park in the interim.
Sanders said he is humbled to serve as the Research Park’s next president, his vision being to ensure the retention of a strong foundation of the park while also building name recognition and reputability across the state.
Hoping to be an external president, Sanders said he plans to “make the case” for the Research Park and its value to the Iowa community.
“I believe I got the job because I have a demonstrated ability to make connections — to make connections with individuals, to make connections with different entities,” Sanders said. “I think that if the Research Park is going to advance like we hope it advances, those connections are going to be vital.”
In his time as supervisor, Sanders served as the chief elected official and managed a $40 million operating budget in addition to 250 employees, according to his resume. Sanders also implemented Story County’s first-ever economic development program, which helped foster more than 6,000 private sector jobs over an eight-year period.
As president, Sanders will inherit the 400+ acre Research Park that hosts more than 703,000 square feet of current building space and a legacy of innovation and growth from Carter.
Carter, who served as the Research Park president for 18 of its 31 years, grew employment at the park from 930 jobs to nearly 3,000 and hosted 179 companies throughout his tenure, about half of which were incubator tenants.
“I’m a Steve Carter fan,” Sanders said. “There’s no way to overstate how important Steve Carter is to all the great things that have happened to the Research Park.”
Sanders and Carter have worked together previously in their respective roles, including the development of a county park located at the ISU Research Park dubbed the Tedesco Environmental Learning Corridor.
“It is unlike anything being done anywhere,” Sanders said. “To have a county park fully located within a city limit and a research park to demonstrate how environmental concerns and commercial concerns can work together in a positive nature.”
The Tedesco Environmental Learning Corridor is slated to open June 28.
“My goal has always been to help our community and our state be the best place it could possibly be and I think I get to continue that now in my new role,” Sanders said.
Sanders was selected from a pool of more than 50 applicants by a committee comprised of members of the Research Park’s board of directors and an employee.
The committee was led by Michael Crum, Ruan Chair in Supply Chain Management in the Ivy College of Business and chair of the Research Park's board of directors.
He said that in looking for a new president, the committee was focused on finding someone who not just understands economic development and what research parks do, but has demonstrated experience working with all levels of government and can develop relationships within those entities.
"The Park is in a really good position," Crum said. "There's a lot of opportunity ... All in all, we're poised for even greater things and Rick really is well suited to help us achieve greater things."
Sanders will assume his position June 1. He will resign from his supervisor role Tuesday morning — a position he held for nine years — effective May 31.
“I have loved my time as a Story County supervisor,” Sanders said. “I believe strongly that all of us ought to have the mission of leaving it better than we find it and I think that if that’s the standard you hold me to then I’m going to accomplish that in Story County.”