Rob Dillard


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.

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.


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.

University of Iowa Health Care

Programs offered by the University of Iowa to draw more young people into the so-called STEM fields appear to be working. The number of students attending STEM-related workshops sponsored by the U of I during the past year increased substantially.

UnityPoint Health

UnityPoint Health is about to make available in Cedar Falls a medical clinic with dedicated service hours for LGBTQ patients. It will be a first-of-its-kind within the hospital chain.

Beginning right after the first of the year, the UnityPoint clinic on Prairie Parkway in Cedar Falls will offer evening hours for LGBTQ patients two Wednesdays a month. Dr. Eric Neverman, a specialist in pediatrics and internal medicine,  will help staff the clinic. He and the rest of the providers there have completed what’s called Safe Zone training.

Grand Design Recreational Vehicles

What a difference a year makes for recreational vehicle maker Winnebago Industries. The Forest City-based manufacturer begins fiscal 2018 well ahead of its earnings for last year at this time.

Des Moines University

The osteopathic medical school Des Moines University is using grant money to launch a pilot project to address a shortage in Iowa of mental health professionals. It’s designed to train future primary-care doctors in treating psychiatric illness.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

The president and CEO of the conservative advocacy group The Family Leader says Americans have a right to know if President Trump engaged in past sexual misconduct. Bob Vander Plaats says the allegations made by a number of women against the president should not be ignored simply because he says he’s innocent.

"A lot of these ladies came forth in the election, and for whatever reason, the American people said 'we're going to give the presidency to Donald Trump.' That doesn't mean their issue went away because he became president." 


The Technology Association of Iowa is launching a first-of-its-kind podcast in the state highlighting women leaders in high-tech. The project is known as “Technically Iowa.”

The series of interviews for the podcast is hosted by a woman who is already at the forefront of using technology to start a business. Beth Trejo is CEO and founder of the Sioux City-based social media agency Chatterkick. She says the goal of the show is to develop a network of women techies.

Diocese of Des Moines

The Bishop of the Des Moines Catholic Diocese is joining Catholic Bishops across the country in calling for Congress to enact the so-called Dream Act.

Bishop Richard Pates spoke with reporters after meeting with some 25 inmates of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement holding cell at the Polk County Sheriff’s office.

He tells the story of one young man who was recently picked up on suspicion of being in the country illegally.

Lee Enterprises

Total operating revenue at the Davenport-based media company Lee Enterprises is down for the fiscal year. Digital advertising, however, shows strong improvement.

While overall revenue from advertising at the newspaper chain Lee Enterprises dropped by 10 percent for fiscal 2017, it was up nearly eight percent on the digital side. Company CEO Kevin Mowbray says this means Lee will continue to push content and ads to the web and mobile devices.


As one of the year’s busiest air travel periods heats up, the Transportation Security Administration is putting in place new procedures for screening electronics. The changes were announced earlier this year and are now reaching Iowa airports.

Passengers at TSA checkpoints will now be required to do with their e-readers, computer tablets and DVD players what they have long been doing with their laptops. Carrie Harmon is the regional public affairs manager for the TSA.

Mel Andringa, Legion Arts, Flickr

The photographer who documented life in a small eastern Iowa town in a book titled “The Oxford Project,” has died.

Peter Feldstein was a professor of photography at the University of Iowa in 1984 when he asked the 670 residents of Oxford, the Johnson County town in which he lived, if he could take their pictures. Twenty years later he reshot the photos of those who remained alive and in town, and with writer Stephen Bloom, published “The Oxford Project.” In it, they told the sometimes revealing stories of people growing up and growing old in a small Iowa town.

Mighty Earth

Environmental activists were at the Tyson meatpacking plant in Perry Thursday delivering a petition bearing more than 1,000 names. It was part of a nationwide drive calling for the company to purchase sustainable grains as a way to reduce water pollution.

A group calling itself Mighty Earth is delivering petitions at seven Tyson locations across the country, A field organizer for the Iowa chapter of Mighty Earth, Elise Peterson-Trujillo, says the environmentalists are asking the nation’s largest meat producer to live by its pledge to pursue sustainable practices.

Milken Family Foundation

A teacher in a small school district in southern Iowa is one of 44 teachers nationwide to receive a Milken Educator Award this year. It’s her job to train other teachers.

Joni Readout is an instructional coach at Central Decatur middle school and high school in Leon. She works with about 15 other district teachers to help improve their classroom work. Her efforts were noticed by the Milken Family Foundation, which honors teacher excellence each year.

Blank Park Zoo

One of the two female lions at Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines has become the mother of three cubs. The births come as the lion population in the wild declines dramatically.

The zoo’s lioness Neema gave birth Nov. 14 to two female cubs and one male. Neema arrived in Des Moines in June. The father, Deuce, has lived at Blank Park since 2012. They are part of a Species Survival Plan zoos have put in place to protect the great cats. Zoo CEO Mark Vukovich says the past 20 years have seen a steep decline in the number of wild lions.