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.

Stanley Consultants

The chairman emeritus of Iowa’s largest engineering firm has died. Richard Stanley joined Muscatine-based Stanley Consultants, the company co-founded by his father, in 1955. He became its president in 1971 and served as its chairman of the board beginning in 1984. He retired as chair emeritus in 2013. He was perhaps better known internationally as leader of the Stanley Foundation. It promotes global citizenship through policy analysis, conferences and outreach efforts.

Des Moines city government

A major link between downtown Des Moines’s East Village and Western Gateway is reopening to traffic. While cars are again crossing the Grand Avenue Bridge, construction on it will continue until next summer.

The 100-year-old bridge spanning the Des Moines River was closed in September of 2016. The structure was demolished and crews have been working to rebuild it since.

The partially finished job is now allowing one-way traffic in each direction. Pedestrians can also now cross it on one sidewalk.

Patricia Izbicki

The Technology Association of Iowa is handing out its annual Women of Innovation Awards this week. One of the recipients is exploring the connection between music and the brain.

A doctoral student at Iowa State is being recognized for her research into how music impacts the nervous system. Patricia Izbicki has an undergraduate degree in music performance and is now applying it to her scientific studies in the Neuroscience Graduate Program at ISU. She says she hopes the results of her work lead to more support for music programs.

Heartland Financial

Dubuque-based Heartland Financial USA is continuing its aggressive expansion plans with the purchase of a Minnesota chain of banks. The deal marks Heartland’s 20th acquisition since 1994.

The bank holding company is buying Minnetonka, Minnesota-based Signature Bancshares for an estimated $53.4 million.

As part of the deal, Signature will merge into Heartland’s other Minnesota-based subsidiary, Minnesota Bank and Trust.

In a statement, Heartland president and CEO Lynn Fuller says he sees the purchase as a great opportunity to expand in the Twin Cities market.

University of Iowa

The University of Iowa is participating in what researchers are calling the largest-ever genetic study of autism. They’re looking for 50,000 participants nationwide.

The study is being conducted by the New York-based Simons Foundation, which funds scientific research. The UI Carver College of Medicine is one of 25 sites across the country recruiting families to participate. An assistant professor of psychiatry, Jacob Michaelson, is the lead investigator in Iowa and says the project aims to gather genetic samples to help determine the causes of autism.

ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Iowa State University’s new president is Wendy Wintersteen.

She’s been in various roles at Iowa State for nearly 40-years. She is currently Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences on the Ames campus.

Wintersteen, 61, becomes the first woman to hold Iowa State’s  presidency.

Iowa’s Board of Regents interviewed the three finalists  in closed sessions Monday, then in open session it voted unanimously to make Wintersteen Iowa State’s sixteenth president.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa’s junior U.S. Senator Joni Ernst says she now has it in writing from the Environmental Protection Agency it will uphold the Renewable Fuel Standard. She got the news late Thursday night.

The Republican says she received a letter from EPA administrator Scott Pruitt pledging to support the RFS, which mandates the use of biofuels in gasoline. The Trump administration became the target of a heavy lobbying effort from Iowa elected officials and farm groups after it was reported the EPA would scale back the RFS. Ernst says she’s relieved.

Grand Design Recreational Vehicles

Forest City-based Winnebago Industries is reporting strong revenue growth for fiscal 2017. The results are driven mostly by profits from its towable recreational vehicle division.

Revenue and income at Winnebago are up substantially from a year ago. The manufacturer of RVs brought in more than $1.5 billion in revenue for the fiscal year ending August 26. That’s a nearly 59 percent increase from 2016. Operating income for the year improved by 90 percent to $125 million. Company president and CEO Michael Happe credits robust sales of its Grand Design towable division.

Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

The West Des Moines shopping district known as Valley Junction is officially joining the National Register of Historic Places. The designation makes buildings in the neighborhood eligible for various preservation tax credits.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

Houses on the near east side of Des Moines, within sight of the Capitol dome, are among the city’s oldest. They are also among the most in disrepair. Some changes are afoot to freshen the look of three low-income neighborhoods.

Stacie Phillips works amidst a whir of construction activity in the shell of a house built in 1907 from a kit popular at the time.

“It’s a wonderful old house with the original trim, the conference ceilings," she says. "It has the original, beautiful swing-out casement windows we have rehabbed. Just a beautiful plan.”

One Iowa

The state’s largest advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning residents is staging a first-time event in Des Moines. The full-day summit is aimed at workplace culture.

One Iowa says the first annual gathering to be held at Principal Financial Group is designed to show employers how to improve their policies toward LGBTQ workers. The executive director of the organization, Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel, says it makes sense to focus on the office because that’s where people spend much of their time.

Des Moines Area Community College

Des Moines Area Community College and the University of Iowa are entering into an agreement to help nurses earn bachelor’s degrees. It’s another joint effort to attract more nurses to the field.

Creighton University

The Mid-America Business Conditions Index is pointing to solid economic gains ahead. Inflation is also soaring.

The monthly report from Creighton University is at a healthy 58.2, above the growth neutral mark of 50 for the tenth straight month. The man who compiles the survey of supply managers in nine states, economist Ernie Goss, says he’s keeping an eye on job numbers released later this week to see what they say about wage increases.

Greater Dubuque Development Corp.

Work begins today on construction of a large manufacturing plant in Dubuque. The project will keep one of the city’s top employers in town.

Ground is being broken this morning on Flexsteel Industries’ $25 million facility that the manufacturer announced it would build earlier this year. The new plant will sit on 22 acres in the Dubuque Industrial Center South.

Grinnell College

The annual Grinnell Innovator in Social Justice Prize is going to a woman who advocates for other women who have loved ones in prison. 

Harvard-educated attorney and activist Gina Clayton is the founder of the Essie Justice Group. Named for Clayton’s great grandmother, the organization supports women with incarcerated loved ones and helps them push for criminal justice reform.

She will receive the $100,000 Grinnell Prize during on-campus ceremonies Tuesday. Two women who are graduates of the program will join her.

U.S. Court for the Southern District of Iowa

The federal government is starting over in its search for a site to build a federal courthouse in Des Moines. 

The U.S. General Services Administration had selected a vacant lot on the west bank of the Des Moines River downtown for the $137 million project. It’s where the old YMCA once sat.

City leaders opposed the decision, saying they preferred a commercial development for the spot, one that would generate tax revenue.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

The fifth annual Robert D. Ray Iowa SHARES Humanitarian Award is going to the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Des Moines. The Most Reverend Richard Pates is being recognized for his efforts to fight hunger at home and abroad.

Bishop Pates served a year-long term as chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. This role took him on diplomatic missions to Cuba, Iran, and the conflicted-area between Israel and Palestine. He says this work is meant to build bridges.

ACLU of Iowa

The ACLU of Iowa is filing a lawsuit to challenge the Iowa Department of Human Services’ ban on Medicaid coverage for transition-related medical care for transgender Iowans. The civil rights group says the ban is based on outdated assumptions about the nature of transgender health care.

The lawsuit is being filed on behalf of two clients – EerieAnna Good of the Quad Cities and Carol Ann Beal of northwest Iowa. Beal says she began taking hormone therapy when she was 14 and has lived as a woman since. She says she joined the suit because someone needed to be a trailblazer.

Wartburg College

After 166 years of offering only undergraduate degrees in the liberal arts, Wartburg College is beginning a master’s program in 2018. The first graduate-level degree for the school in Waverly will be in music therapy.

Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers

Students at Grinnell College are looking to expand the reach of the nation’s only independent undergraduate student workers union. They want the labor organization representing dining hall workers to cover all student workers on campus.

The Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers has negotiated contracts for undergraduate dining hall workers since the spring of 2015. In that time, it says wages have increased 12 percent. A spokesman for the union, Carter Howe, says now is the time to represent all student workers on Grinnell’s campus.

Greater Des Moines Partnership

A national business publication is naming Des Moines the nation’s top market for minor league sports. The city topped a list of 219 metro areas for the honor.

Sports Business Journal will have Des Moines as its cover story in the September 18 issue. The city is being recognized for the success of four minor league teams.

The Iowa Wild hockey franchise is heading into its fifth season and is selling more season tickets than ever.

The Iowa Cubs averaged more than 7,700 fans a game this past summer.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

Grand View University on the east side of Des Moines is launching an effort to better connect with the school’s surrounding neighborhoods. The project is the result of dozens of meetings with community leaders over the past year.

The initiative is being called the Views Forward Project. Grand View will work with four of the Capital City’s oldest neighborhoods – Highland Park, Union Park, Capitol Park and Martin Luther King, Jr., Park. The pastor at Union Park Baptist Church, Wes Foster, says the ultimate goal is east side pride.

Liesl Eathington, Iowa State University

Research out of Iowa State University shows Iowa is losing its most highly educated workers because there aren’t enough jobs for them here. The situation, however, is slowly changing.

Grand View University

A five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education is coming to Grand View University in Des Moines to train English Language Learner instructors. Grand View will be working with six school districts across the state.

Kirkwood Community College

Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids is experiencing a surge in the number of students enrolled in its high school completion programs. The school is putting out a call for volunteer tutors to help manage the load.

The overall number of students served by the programs has increased by 4.6 percent in the past year. This includes higher enrollments of those seeking high school equivalency diplomas and ESL students. The director of the programs, Marcel Kielkucki, says most are trying to improve their standing in a strong economy.

Iowa State University news service

Iowa State University is using a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to lead an initiative aimed at drawing more students of color into mathematics. Assistant math professor Michael Young will oversee the effort. He says few blacks and Hispanics are attracted to mathematics because they don’t see anyone who looks like them in the field.

“I went through college and graduate school, almost 10 years of schooling, and I never saw a black mathematician,” he says.

Young is looking to change what he sees in his own classroom.

Todd Bailey / Grand View University

Iowa business leaders and educators are expressing disappointment in the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program known as DACA. They see it as a blow to economic growth.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

Nurses and their supporters rallied in Des Moines to call for higher wages and the right to form a labor union.

Dozens of hospital workers marched to a spot across the street from Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines in support of a $15 per hour minimum wage. The pastor at Trinity Las Americas Methodist Church on the north side of the city, Alejandro Alfaro-Santiz, was among the leaders of the rally.

“Did you know that Iowa is No. 50 in pay for nurses?" he asks. "That’s not right. We have to change that, right?”

Col. Greg Hapgood, Iowa Army National Guard

The Iowa Army National Guard is joining the flood recovery effort in Houston. It is sending troops and helicopters to southeast Texas.

The Guard is deploying 11 soldiers and two Chinook helicopters to the Houston area. Spokesman Col. Greg Hapgood says the copters will be used to move supplies and equipment around the flood-ravaged city.

“It’s a medium lift, heavy lift aircraft," he says. "It will lift about 20,000 pounds, so there’s a lot of utility in a place like Houston for this type of airframe.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The rate of obesity in Iowa is on the decline. New numbers suggest, however, many Iowans still struggle with weight.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are reporting the obesity rate in Iowa for 2016 is at 32 percent. That’s down a tick from 32.1 the previous year. A community health consultant with the Iowa Department of Public Health, Erin Olson, is encouraged by the downward movement but says there’s still concern.

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