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

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.

Student Voice

A group of students is gathering in Des Moines to talk about the future of education. They want to be part of the conversation about educational priorities.          

A nonprofit called the Iowa Student Learning Institute is behind the meeting among students, community leaders and legislators. Ian Coon co-founded the institute when he was in high school. Now a sophomore at Wartburg College, Coon says students need to be included when talk turns to education.

Inc. 5000

Twenty-eight Iowa companies are on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing privately owned firms nationwide. Most are located in urban areas, although a few small town enterprises landed spots.

Inc. magazine lists West Des Moines-based Ivy Lane Corporation as the fastest growing company in the state. Revenue for the owner of 35 Valvoline oil change stores has grown by 693 percent over the past three years to put it at 658 on the list.

Grape Tree Medical Staffing in the small, lakes-region town of Milford landed a few spots behind at 665.

Iowa Legislature

One of the Democratic candidates for Governor is leaving the crowded field. State Representative Todd Prichard of Charles City says he is suspending his campaign and will instead seek reelection to the Iowa House of Representatives. He did not endorse any of the other seven candidates, saying in a release he “looks forward to supporting progressive candidates at all levels of the Democratic ticket.”

Iowa Office of Latino Affairs

The inaugural class of inductees into the Iowa Latino Hall of Fame is being introduced. The first three members are long-time activists within the state.

The Iowa Latino Hall of Fame was established earlier this year to honor Latinos who have made significant cultural, social, political and economic contributions to the state.

Sonia Reyes-Snyder is executive officer of the Office of Latino Affairs.

“It is very important for us to acknowledge the contributions Latinos have made to the state and to the Latino community,” she says.

Ross Wilburn

A former mayor of Iowa City is entering the Democratic race for governor. Fifty-two-year-old Ross Wilburn is formally making the announcement that he is joining the field of seven other Democrats Monday at the Iowa State Fair. Wilburn is a native of Davenport and was the first African-American elected mayor of Iowa City in 2006. He served just one term, but was on the city council for 12 years. 

Drake University

Thirteen immigrant high school students in Des Moines are telling their stories for all to hear. They are part of a project at Drake University to share their personal experiences via podcast. 

Lincoln High senior Heman Gurang is polishing a script to introduce his grandfather.

“He’s from Bhutan, like my family, who was forced to leave Bhutan, then he moved to Nepal. After many years in Nepal, he came to Michigan in the United States,” Gurang reads.

Des Moines Golf and Country Club

One of the golfing world’s prime events is in West Des Moines this week. The biennial Solheim Cup pits the best professional female golfers in the U.S. against the best from Europe.

Planning for the international contest began four years ago when it was announced the Des Moines Golf and Country Club would be the 2017 site. Solheim Cup tournament director Chris Garrett has been in the area since then preparing for an event he expects to draw 30,000 spectators. He says he’ll take time to celebrate his team’s accomplishment in getting ready.

Drake University

Fifty students of color from the Des Moines public schools are on Drake University’s campus this week preparing for college. It’s an effort to draw more minorities into higher education.

Yolanda

The decline of Monarch butterfly populations over the past two decades has received much attention from scientists. However, recent surveys of the Monarch population in the Midwest have not been showing dramatic decreases.

Monarch populations are thought to be tied to the disappearance of milkweed, the only plant on which Monarchs lay eggs. Iowa State University assistant professor in ecology, John Pleasants says Monarch populations in the Midwest may appear stable because counts are taken in open areas where butterflies can find milkweed.

Joyce Russell, IPR

The Iowa Board of Regents is approving the fiscal 2018 budgets for the three state universities. But before doing so, board members heard from the schools’ presidents about how cutbacks in state support are hampering their efforts to stay competitive. At Iowa State, faculty and staff salaries are frozen. At UNI, some adjunct faculty have been let go. Regent President Michael Richards says each school has its own challenges.

“I think we’re open to looking at what each university needs to move forward and keep progressing,” he says.

Lee Enterprises

Total revenue for Davenport-based Lee Enterprises is down for the third quarter ended June 30. The company is earning increasingly more from the digital side of newspapers.

The owner of newspapers and specialty publications in 22 states is reporting a 6.6 percent decrease in total revenue from the previous quarter. But Lee Enterprises Chief Executive Officer Kevin Mowbray says revenue from digital advertising is up nearly eight percent.

“In the June quarter, digital retail advertising represented 29.1 percent of total advertising revenue for the company,” he says.

NewLink Genetics

The Ames-based pharmaceutical company NewLink Genetics is reducing its workforce by around 50 percent as it focuses on a single cancer-fighting drug. The action comes as it prepares for some pivotal trials.

NewLink is pouring its resources into development of indoximod. The company’s chairman, CEO and chief scientific officer Charles Link says the drug is showing promise in strengthening immune systems to combat cancer cells.

Principal Financial Group

Des Moines-based asset manager Principal Financial Group is showing a solid second quarter for fiscal 2017. The company is also ending a long streak of quarters with positive cash flow.

Principal had gone 24 straight quarters with positive net cash flows until now. Company chairman, president and CEO Dan Houston says there were a number of primary contributors to this result.

“First and foremost, it reflects the volatility inherent in the global institutional asset management and retirement space as large deposits and withdrawals can occur unevenly over time,” he says.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio / Iowa Public Radio

Des Moines-based Meredith Corporation is closing out fiscal 2017 with record profits and revenue. The media company is riding a strong year for political and digital advertising.

The owner of magazines and TV stations is reporting a four percent increase in overall revenue from a year ago to a record $1.7 billion. A key reason was the all-time high $63 million in political advertising. Meredith chairman and CEO Steve Lacy also credits rapidly growing digital and social platforms.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio / Iowa Public Radio

Mercy Children’s Hospital and Clinics in the Des Moines metro are the first in the state to offer something called Cinemavision for young patients undergoing MRIs. The children can now watch movies to distract them from the medical procedure they’re experiencing.

Fourteen-year-old Kathryn Christy of Johnston has been inside an MRI machine plenty of times since being diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was ten. Up until now, she’s relied on general anesthesia to ease her anxiety. The last 90-minute-long scan was different. She watched the movie “Pitch Perfect.”

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa State University and Des Moines Area Community College are joining together to create what they call the Iowa Cyber Hub. Its aim is to increase the number of professionals working in the field of cyber-security.

ISU computer engineering professor Doug Jacobson will lead the effort known as the Iowa Cyber Hub.

“In this globally interconnected world, Iowans are not immune to these cyber-attacks," he says. "Cyber-security can only be solved with people and education. We need to grow local talent and we need to increase the cyber workforce.”

Steven Strooh/Flickr

The most recent billings report from the American Institute of Architects indicates it could be a busy year for construction activity. It shows the state's architectural firms have plenty of design work.

The AIA Architecture Billings Index provides a glimpse at construction spending nine months to a year down the road. The executive director of the local chapter, Jessica Reinert, says the index for the Midwest and Iowa shows a steady increase in design requests since the start of 2017. She says this has put a strain on architectural firms.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio / Iowa Public Radio

The aquatic center at the downtown YMCA in Des Moines is nearing completion after a long delay. The project was slowed by fundraising challenges.

Concrete is in place for the Olympic-size pool adjacent to the Y, but construction dust still fills the air. The eight-lane, 50-meter pool is costing around $10 million to build. YMCA of Greater Des Moines CEO Dave Schwartz says raising the money has required patience.

“I’ve been on board just a year now, and we’ve made great progress," he says. "We feel really comfortable where we’re at, and we’re excited to get it open.”

Heartland Financial

Dubuque-based Heartland Financial is adding to its bank holdings. It’s completing a deal to buy a Colorado chain of banks.

Heartland is acquiring Citywide Banks of Colorado in a deal valued at around $211 million. Citywide is headquartered in the Denver suburb of Aurora. Heartland CEO Lynn Fuller says the purchase will make his company more competitive in the rapidly growing Colorado market.

“We’ll be the third largest community bank in the Denver area," he says. "And we’ll be the 11th largest bank in Colorado.”

Iowa Department of Human Rights

A pioneering figure in Iowa politics has died.

Willie Stevenson Glanton. was the first black woman elected to the Iowa Legislature. It was in 1964, at a time when the American civil rights movement was gaining momentum. Glanton was raised in Hot Springs, Ark. During a 2011 interview with Iowa Public Radio, she recalled the influence her politically active parents had on her life.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio / Iowa Public Radio

A Des Moines hip-hop artist is releasing a music video aimed at ending gun violence. The first public viewing came in front of the Governor, the Des Moines chief of police and community leaders.

Will Keeps had a hard upbringing on the south side of Chicago. In recent years, he has been promoting anti-violence through music. His latest effort is called “Droppin.”

“(from the video) Oh, oh, no more, oh, oh, no more.”

Keeps says he’s fed up with the uptick in gun violence across the country.

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