The Foundry: BVU’s Lamberti Center for Rural Entrepreneurship

Autumn McClain

In September of 2019, BVU received a generous $2.9 million donation from Don Lamberti, founder and CEO of Casey’s General Stores, to establish a center for rural entrepreneurship. In May of 2020, BVU began leasing a building at 524 Lake Ave in downtown Storm Lake. Now known as The Foundry, this collaboration space is intended to offer resources to small business owners in Storm Lake and BVU students who wish to establish their own start-up companies.

Levity Tech, a software consulting company founded by BVU computer science alumni Bazyl Horsey, Michael Martin, and Cole Goslar, is the first start-up company to occupy the downtown building under construction. Bazyl Horsey, founder and CEO of Levity Tech, said, “We are really grateful that we’ve been given these resources provided by BVU. It’s made our launch much smoother as opposed to paying thousands a month in rent for an office space.”

In January of 2020, Levity Tech was established while the developers were still attending BVU.

“Once school finished, we decided this is something that could really work. We have a team that synergizes well, we’re all really good friends. We recruited other BVU alumni. We have a free office offered to us because of Gary Sterling and the Rural Entrepreneurship program. The water felt right, and we decided to make the jump immediately post-graduation. Since then, we’ve been working full force at building Levity as a software consulting company,” said Horsey.

Gary Sterling, director of the Lamberti Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, said,

“We want to give our students an advantage moving into the job market or setting them up to start their own company. In many cases, students who want to start companies graduate and relocate to Minneapolis, Omaha, or Des Moines to attract a larger market. We are trying to find ways to keep them here in Storm Lake.”

Gary Sterling, director of the Lamberti Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, in the main office area of The Foundry during early stages of development.

The Foundry will also serve as a gathering place for community events as well as a promotional outlet for small businesses in Storm Lake. After construction, The Foundry will feature one small business every month to promote economic growth in Storm Lake. The office resources provided will be available to BVU students during regular business hours, while tenants of the office spaces, like Levity Tech, will have 24/7 access.

“The Foundry is also a co-working space for people visiting Storm Lake, whether they are associated with the university or not. If they need a place to utilize technology such as printing capabilities, scanning, or office support features, they are welcomed here as well,” said Sterling.

“The Foundry will give our students an advantage moving into the job market or setting them up to start their own company. We wanted to create a physical site where start-up companies can office and we can help coach them. Giving them a place to connect and take away some of the barriers of starting a company.”

The Foundry is currently in phase one of construction, according to Sterling. The fireplace lounge area located in the entrance of The Foundry is predicted to be completed by mid-March 2021. The back conference area, where resources such as cubicles, printers, scanners, copy machines, and multiple TVs with Wi-Fi and zoom capabilities, will be under construction through the summer of 2021. The upper units of the building have been unoccupied since 1975 but have plenty of potential for expansion of The Foundry in years to come.