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.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

The sheriff of Franklin County has died after a short illness.

Linn Larson was elected sheriff of the north Iowa county in November of 2015.

He was the police chief of Belmond when he was hired by Franklin County in 1990.

He eventually worked up to become chief deputy in 2008.

In February of 2017, he set off concerns within Franklin County’s large Latino population when he announced he would begin cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

Linn Larson died Tuesday. He was 59 years old.

Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

One of the latest Iowa listings on the National Register of Historic Places is the building that now houses the Center Point Depot Museum. It was once a main stop on the train line that ran between Cedar Rapids and Waterloo.

The Center Point Depot was built in 1914. It was one of eight such depots owned by the Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Northern Railroad, which operated an electric passenger and freight service known as the interurban. The secretary of the Center Point Historical Society, Sharron Hannen, says it was a mainstay of travel in eastern Iowa prior to World War Two.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

The drive to draw more young women into science, technology, engineering and math has been gaining momentum in recent years. There's a program in Des Moines that makes sure low-income girls are given a chance at the so-called STEM fields.

Many of the girls Nancy Mwirotsi works with are beginning at ground zero when it comes to computers.

“Most of them are pretty new in the country," she says. "We had to start with basic what is an e-mail address.”

Winnebago Industries

Forest City-based Winnebago Industries is enhancing its production of electric commercial vehicles. It involves a partnership with a California manufacturer.

Winnebago has had a specialty vehicles division for 30 years. Now because of an arrangement with San Francisco Bay area-based Motiv Power Systems, it will be able to use chassis built specially for electric commercial vehicles. The vice president of strategic planning and development for Winnebago, Ashis Bhattacharya, says the mobile units will have a range of between 85-and-125 miles per single charge.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

An opera opening in New York City this week will feature some voices from Iowa. But not all of the chorus members involved are free to travel to see the production in person.

“Give yourself a little inhale," says director Mary Cohen, as she stands before her choir. "Open your mouth for the exhale. This time reflect on the message of the song. So the message of freedom, light, hope.”

Drake University

A former president of Drake University in Des Moines has died. Wilbur Miller played a significant role in shaping the Drake campus we see today.

Miller was a Des Moines native and attended Drake for two years in the early 1940s.

Much of his academic career was spent at the University of Denver, where he taught psychology and eventually became dean of faculty and acting chancellor.

He was named Drake’s ninth president in 1972 and stayed in the job for 13 years.

Iowa State University

A football coach who led the Iowa State Cyclones, the UNI Panthers and the Arena League’s Iowa Barnstormers has died.

Earle Bruce is generally regarded as the coach who revitalized the Cyclone football program in the mid-1970s. He recorded a 36-32 record at Iowa State between 1973-1978, which included three eight-win seasons in a row and two notable victories against rival Nebraska.

Drake University

An art professor at Drake University is a winner of the prestigious Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in the arts. He’s only the second Drake faculty member to receive the honor, and one of a few Iowans.     

Chicago-born printmaker Phillip Chen has been teaching at Drake since 1996. He is the only person currently living in Iowa on this year’s list of 173 Guggenheim Fellows. The recognition comes with an undisclosed financial reward, which Chen says he can use.

hometownsource.com

The woman who was the brainchild behind the popular Olympic-style Iowa Games has died.

Carol Droste was an administrative assistant to First Lady Chris Branstad in the 1980s when she noted the competitive games taking place in neighboring states, says the Chief Operating Officer for the Iowa Sports Foundation, Kevin Bourke.

“She was the one who had seen what was happening in the other states around Iowa – the Cornhusker State Games, the Prairie State Games in Illinois, the Show Me State Games in Missouri – and presented the idea to Governor Branstad,” Bourke says.

Iowa Business Council

The state’s largest employers are anticipating economic growth over the next six months. An ongoing shortage of quality workers may get in the way.

The quarterly Economic Outlook Survey from the Iowa Business Council shows 80 percent of its members expect higher sales through summer. To meet demand, half say they will increase capital spending and nearly half forecast hiring more workers. The problem, says the Council’s executive director Georgia Van Gundy, is attracting and retaining a quality workforce in Iowa.

Hoyt Sherman Place

Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines is adding to its art collection a piece from circa 1600 that it has owned for nearly a century without knowing it. Officials have discovered “Apollo and Venus” by Dutch master Otto Van Veen.

University of Northern Iowa

The University of Northern Iowa is hosting a forum tonight to emphasize the contributions made by refugees to the state’s economy. The organizers hope it will help clear up some misunderstandings.

The open forum will include a panel made up of a sociologist, legal expert, someone from the Iowa Department of Human Services, and advocates for refugees. One of its organizers is a professor of international economics at UNI, Shahina Amin. She says it’s designed to help remove some stereotypes.

This program originally aired 6-19-17.

Proposed budget cuts by the Trump administration have scientists at the Ames Laboratory on the campus of Iowa State University concerned. The smallest of the national laboratories receives 90 percent of its funding from the Department of Energy. The director of the Ames Lab, Adam Schwartz, says President Trump’s proposed budget would harm scientific research.

Winnebago Industries

Towable RVs now account for well more than half of the revenue at Forest City-based Winnebago Industries. Second quarter profits and revenue are up substantially for the recreational vehicle manufacturer from a year ago.

The quarter ended Feb. 24 is the first full quarter since Winnebago bought Indiana-based towable RV maker Grand Design. The results show revenue up more than 26 percent from the second quarter 2017 and an increase in profits of more than 37 percent. Winnebago CEO Michael Happe says the company is grabbing a bigger slice of the towable market.

Casey's General Stores

Ankeny-based convenience store chain Casey’s General Stores is reporting a big increase in its bottom line results for the third quarter. It had little to do with in-store sales.

The company’s earnings for the quarter climbed to nearly $193 million or $5.08 per share. This is a huge increase from the 58 cents per share from a year ago. And yet, Casey’s CEO Terry Handley says sales of prepared foods fell below expectations, and so it took action in Washington to boost the bottom line.

Iowa Business Council

The Iowa Business Council is out with its 6th annual Competitive Dashboard, which looks at how the state stacks up against other states on economic development. It raises concerns about the preparedness of Iowa’s workforce.

The IBC is calling the need for a trained workforce a major concern and challenge for Iowa employers. The Council’s executive director, Georgia Van Gundy, says the state is rightfully praised for its high school graduation rate.

Grendelkhan / Wikimedia Commons

Proponents of solar energy in Iowa are worried about a proposal under study in both chambers of the legislature. They say it would deregulate the rate-making process for utility companies by allowing them to change rates for various classes of customers without receiving Iowa Utility Board approval. Former legislator Tyler Olson, now president of SiteGen Solar in Cedar Rapids, says that move would harm the state’s growing solar industry.

Lee Enterprises

First quarter results at Davenport-based Lee Enterprises demonstrate the ongoing changes in the newspaper industry. Content and advertising are rapidly moving to digital.

Overall revenue at the newspaper chain has dropped 6.6 percent from a year ago. Subscription revenue was off by more than a percent. But on the digital side, earnings from advertising grew by around three percent. Lee’s executive chairwoman Mary Junck says the results are remaking how editors and reporters go about their jobs.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

Des Moines-based Meredith Corporation is completing the deal the buy magazine publisher Time Inc. The purchase vaults Meredith to near the top of national media companies.

Meredith announced it planned to purchase the publisher of Time, People, Sports Illustrated and other magazines last November in a deal valued at $2.8 billion. Meredith Chair and CEO Steve Lacy says the deal makes his company a leader in entertainment, food, lifestyle, news and sports.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa is receiving mostly failing grades from the American Lung Association for its efforts to curb smoking. The advocacy group is calling for some legislative fixes.

The only area in which the state receives an A from the Lung Association is in providing smoke-free air in many public places. But much of the rest of its report card is filled with Fs. Iowa drew one of the Fs for the level of state tobacco taxes. The senior regional director for the association, Pat McKone, says she’d like to see the tax on a pack of cigarettes go up by at least $1.50.

Iowa Department of Education

The governor and the acting lieutenant governor appeared before the state Board of Education Thursday. One point they made applied to rural schools.

During her Condition of the State address, Kim Reynolds announced she was appointing Adam Gregg to lead an initiative aimed at growing rural Iowa. Gregg was by her side as they spoke with state education board members. He says connecting schools in rural areas to the Internet will be part of his efforts. Gregg says Iowa isn’t doing too badly, with 99 percent of schools providing the recommended band width.

Facebook

Des Moines is among the first five U.S. cities to be included in an initiative launched by Facebook called Community Boost. It’s designed to help small businesses and job seekers sharpen their social media skills.

Principal Financial Group

Des Moines-based Principal Financial Group is expanding its presence in Southeast Asia.

The asset management company is gaining a larger stake in a joint venture with Malaysian financial services provider CIMB Group Holdings.

Principal is increasing its ownership to 60 percent in a partnership that began in 2004.

Principal will pay CIMB Group $117 million in the transaction, which is expected to close during the second quarter of 2018.

In a news release, Principal says Southeast Asia “is a growing and important region” for the company.

Rockwell Collins

Shareholders at Cedar Rapids-based Rockwell Collins are saying yes to selling the aviation company to United Technologies.

More than 96 percent of all votes cast by shareholders approved the $30 billion acquisition deal.

Pending regulatory approval, Rockwell Collins will combine with UTC Aerospace Systems to form a new United Technologies business called Collins Aerospace Systems.

The deal is expected to close during the third quarter of 2018.

Rockwell Collins CEO Kelly Ortberg will become chief executive of the new enterprise.

Madeleine McCormick / Iowa Public Radio

The Iowa Secretary of State’s office is beginning what it calls a “soft rollout” of recent changes to the election law. The changes include the implementation of voter ID.

Secretary of State Paul Pate is launching an outreach program he calls “Voter Ready.” A requirement that voters present an ID at the polls went into effect the first of January. Pate’s office has budgeted $700,000 for the rollout of changes, which he says is plenty given the number of Iowans who are already registered to vote.

Caleb Housh, mayor of Seymour

High school students in the Seymour Community School District are beginning 2018 taking classes in a former nursing home on the east side of town. They remain displaced after a tornado seriously damaged their school building last year.

Mercy College of Health Sciences

The push to prepare more nurses to fill a growing shortage within the profession is resulting in another educational collaboration. This joint venture involves two private colleges in Des Moines.

Peacock Information Center

The bird population at the nation’s largest producer of peacock hatching eggs is taking a hit from this long stretch of cold weather. It will take years for the numbers to come back.

Dennis Fett operates the Peacock Information Center in the Pottawattamie County town of Minden. He was beginning to recover from a tornado that hit two years ago and killed around 100 birds when the cold snap hit, sending temperatures below zero over the past two weeks.

Iowa Caregivers

A new report is praising Iowa as one of three states developing solutions to the problem of a shortage of direct care workers. Advocates for caregivers in the state say they need legislative support to enact them.

Emily Woodbury / Iowa Public Radio

A Johnson County-based nonprofit is joining with the Iowa Department of Corrections to produce an on-line resource guide for people who are being released from prison. The organization is trying to compile a complete list of support services available in the state.

The group Inside Out Reentry Community formed in 2015 to assist recently incarcerated men and women find jobs, housing, counseling services and even clothing after their release. Its director Mike Cervantes says there is plenty of support for these people, but it’s not always easy to find.

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