Rob Dillard

Correspondent

Rob Dillard is a Des Moines based correspondent for Iowa Public Radio. He joined IPR in 2001 as host of Morning Edition and moved to reporting in 2007.  He has been on special assignment for IPR since early 2011 reporting the ongoing series “Being in Iowa.” It has taken him around the state shining light on small segments of the population, including Muslims, military veterans, Latinos and the physically disabled. The series has won awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) and Northwest Broadcast News Association (NBNA).

Rob has extensive experience in radio, newspaper and media relations dating back more than 30 years. He has also taught news writing at Central College in Pella. Rob earned his bachelor’s degree in mass communications at the University of Iowa.

Rob’s favorite public radio program is Morning Edition.

Ways to Connect

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

A new technology sweeping the real estate market is hitting Des Moines. Virtual reality tours show finished living quarters while they’re still under construction.

Minnesota-based Roers Investments now offers potential downtown apartment dwellers a chance to see what they would be renting before the construction dust clears. Virtual reality devices can now lead prospective tenants of the company’s upscale Confluence on Third project on a tour of the completed building. Jeff Koch with Roers says the new marketing tool is revolutionizing the real estate industry.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Office space at the former AIB campus south of downtown Des Moines is being put to use as a hub for health-related nonprofits. It’s the first project to come since the University of Iowa took ownership of the 20-acre property last summer.

U.S. Department of Arts and Culture

A group in Des Moines is staging what it calls a People’s State of the Union event Monday night at a local jazz club. The evening will consist of stories told by representatives from various minority groups.

The storytelling circle will be made up of someone who uses a wheelchair, a Latina, a Native American, an African-American, a Muslim high school student and a refugee from the Middle East. One of the organizers is Carmen Lampe Zeitler.

National Advanced Driving Simulator

The U.S. Department of Transportation has selected the Iowa City area to be one of its ten proving grounds for driverless cars. Testing is scheduled to begin by the end of the year.

The Iowa City Area Development Group submitted the application to be considered one of the sites for testing automated vehicles. Its director of strategic growth, Tom Banta, says the presence of the National Advanced Driving Simulator at the University of Iowa helped the application stand out.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Until recently, sheriff’s departments in 26 Iowa counties pursued policies described as “sanctuary” protections for undocumented immigrants. That number appears to be going down.

At the start of a public forum in the gymnasium of Hampton-Dumont High School, some ground rules are laid out by the event's organizer, Sister Carmen Hernandez.

“I would ask that any comments, or political comments and opinions might be saved for another time," she tells the crowd. "That probably won’t happen, but just so we know.”

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

In the days immediately following the election of Donald Trump in November, Muslims in Cedar Rapids said they needed to do something to spread the word about their faith. Since the president assumed office, they say this need has become imperative. 

Around 20 people gathered in a lecture hall on the campus of Coe College in Cedar Rapids last Saturday afternoon to learn a little something about the Prophet Muhammad.

Iowa State University news service

An alliance of educators, government officials and the Iowa National Guard is setting out to inform the public about cyber security. The group aims to better protect people from increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks.

The Iowa Cyber Alliance is the nation’s first statewide program dedicated to cyber security. One of its leaders is Doug Jacobson, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Iowa State. He says one of the group’s goals is to prepare young people for careers in what he calls “the very hot field” of cyber security.

Wikimedia Commons

Executives at Lee Enterprises took time out of their first quarter conference call Thursday to defend professional journalism against the onset of so-called fake news. The newspaper chain is set to launch a campaign to explain its journalistic principles.

The Davenport-based company operates newspapers and specialty publications in 21 states. Lee’s executive chairman Mary Junck blasted the proliferation of fake news. She says it underscores the importance of professional journalism.

Wikimedia Commons

President Trump’s executive order to bar citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States is having a direct impact on families in Cedar Rapids. The Imam at the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids says many people fear they may never see relatives again.

Imam Hassan Selim says the president’s recent order restricting travel between the U.S. and seven predominantly Muslim countries is creating fear and uncertainty among members of his Mosque.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

The West Des Moines-based bank holding company West Bancorporation is continuing a string of record-setting quarters. The parent company of West Bank is enjoying a commercial building spree in two key Iowa markets.

Michael Leland/IPR

Des Moines-based Meredith Corporation is riding revenue from political advertising to another record quarter of earnings. The past presidential campaign proved to be a windfall for the media company.

Meredith operates 17 television stations nationwide, including CBS affiliates in the fast-growing markets of Phoenix and Atlanta. Company chairman and CEO Steve Lacy says the record-setting second quarter was powered by a 27 percent increase in total advertising revenue for the stations.

John Pemble, Iowa Public Radio

President Trump is following through on a campaign promise by halting negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The executive action may lead farm groups to take a different approach to trade.

Iowa Reading Research Center

The Iowa Reading Research Center at the University of Iowa is initiating a new effort to reach older students who are struggling to read. It will begin with four schools where teenagers have become disconnected from their mainstream classrooms.

Dwolla

The Des Moines-based payment network Dwolla has completed a round of funding that will enable it to expand its Iowa operation. The announcement comes as the company adjusts its business focus.

A group of venture capitalists have invested nearly $7 million in Dwolla. The money will allow the company to add about 20 people to its sales and account management teams over the next year.

Dwolla CEO Ben Milne launched the payment network in late 2010. He says since then, the mission has changed somewhat.

John Pemble, IPR file photo

Many of the nation’s mayors are meeting in Washington just as the Trump administration is moving into office. The mayor of the state’s largest city is voicing hope the new president will pay attention to the needs of local governments.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Internet download speeds for more than a million households may soon become much faster. The communications company Mediacom is making Iowa its first gigabit state. 

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

West Des Moines is becoming the first city in Iowa to sign on to the national program known as Stop the Bleed. The effort is meant to train citizens to become first responders in cases of mass injuries.

The White House launched the project in partial response to the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Stop the Bleed is designed to train and equip people to save lives in emergency situations involving serious bleeding. 

Andrew B. Clark, SPOKE Communications, LLC

A small county in South Central Iowa is launching an innovative approach to attracting home builders. Officials in Clarke County are starting to give away land to prospective contractors.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

The boom in construction projects across the state is challenging contractors to find enough workers to complete them. The labor shortage will only worsen as an aging workforce enters retirement.

It’s estimated a third of Iowa’s construction workers will retire over the next five years. Combined with an existing shortage of workers, this is putting a strain on contractors to fill their workforce needs. The president and CEO of the Master Builders of Iowa, Chad Kleppe, says his group is targeting students as young as middle school to attract them into construction careers.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Housing complexes and commercial buildings are going up in downtown neighborhoods of cities across the state. Developers often point to the construction boom in Des Moines as a model. The activity is expected to continue in the Capitol City heading into 2017.

Kettlestone-Waukee

The state is awash in billions of dollars’ worth of construction projects that are transforming city downtowns and suburban areas. Among the largest and most anticipated is the 1,500 acre Kettlestone development in the Des Moines suburb of Waukee. 

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is making a change to its Conservation Reserve Program. It’s aimed at freeing up more land for beginning farmers.

Luther College

The internationally acclaimed conductor of the Nordic Choir at Luther College has died.

Weston Noble led one of the nation’s most admired a cappella groups for 57 years beginning in 1948. His annual tours took students to Moscow’s Bolshoi Hall, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall in New York City, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. An assistant professor of music at Luther, Andrew Last, is a 1997 graduate of the school. He says the first time he stood before Noble, he was too emotional to sing.

Courtesy of Winnebago Industries, Inc. Unauthorized use not permitted.

Revenues at Forest City-based RV manufacturer Winnebago Industries are on the uptick. It’s almost entirely because of a move into smaller, less expensive vehicles.

Hunger-free Polk County

Donations to the Des Moines Area Religious Council’s Food Pantry Network are not keeping up with demand. The Network is seeing more people looking for food than ever in its 40-year history.

The Religious Council provides food to 13 pantries around Greater Des Moines. In November, it supplied 18,415 people with provisions, a record number. The Council’s executive director Sarai Rice says there has been a steady increase in demand since the Great Recession.

Iowa Workforce Development

Iowa’s unemployment rate took a significant drop in November. It went from 4.1 percent to 3.8 percent. A spokeswoman for Iowa Workforce Development, Courtney Greene, says unemployment in the state is at its lowest point since March.

“That’s due in part to holiday or seasonal hiring, and also the great fall weather we experienced this year," she says. "However, the economy remains soft as we transition to seasonal unemployment during the winter months.”

Greene says Iowa’s economy also shed around 47-hundred jobs last month.

Christopher Gannon, Iowa State University

A record number of students will receive diplomas Saturday at Iowa State University’s commencement ceremony. The large number of December graduates reflects the overall enrollment figures at the school.

“Iowa State for the nine-past years has had record enrollments," says Laura Doering, the Iowa State University registrar. "In consideration of that, a decade ago we were 11,000 students smaller.”

Doering says the university is also retaining more students.

“This year’s one-year retention rate was 87.1, which exceeds the 10-year average,” she says.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Low-income pregnant women in the Des Moines area will for the first time have access to a computer app to help monitor their health. It’s designed to keep them in close contact with their doctors during various stages of pregnancy.

The app is called Baby Blocks. It’s being offered by UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Iowa, one of the three managed care organizations serving the state’s Medicaid patients. The chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare, KellyAnn Light-McGroary, says the app will help keep expectant mothers on track with their doctor’s appointments.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Construction is continuing on two buildings at Drake University in Des Moines that are part of a $52 million investment in STEM education at the private school.

Drake is offering a number of new programs in the science fields. They include a doctorate degree in occupational therapy, undergraduate degrees in Kinesiology and data analytics, and a master’s in athletic training, which will start in the fall of 2019. Drake President Marty Martin says the new buildings will support these endeavors.

Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest

Researchers at the University of Missouri are releasing a first-of-its-kind study on the mobility of teachers and principals from job-to-job within Iowa. The findings might prove useful to policymakers.  

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