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

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.

Davenport City Council

One of the candidates in a crowded field of Democrats pursuing a run for Governor is dropping out.

Davenport alderman Mike Matson is suspending his campaign.

He says fund-raising pressures are forcing him to withdraw.

Matson is a former Army Ranger and retired Army Sergeant Major who was in special operations command in Afghanistan and Qatar.

Last month, Polk County Conservation Director Rich Leopold dropped his bid.

That leaves at least seven Democrats either running or exploring campaigns for Governor.

Theresa Greenfield for Congress

Another Des Moines-area Democrat is entering the race to unseat Third District Congressman David Young.

Businesswoman Theresa Greenfield says in a release issued Wednesday she will join the contest.

She is president of the family-owned real estate firm Colby Interests.

Greenfield joins businesswoman Cynthia Axne and activist Heather Ryan in the Democratic field.

Political operative Pete D’Alessandro is considering a run.

Greenfield grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota near the Iowa border. 

Des Moines Police Department

A woman shot by Des Moines police in the early morning hours of July 5 has died from her injuries.

She is identified as Tiffany Potter, 29, of Des Moines.

A statement from Des Moines police sergeant Paul Parizek says Potter was armed with a handgun as she ran from officers at around 2 a.m., and fired at least one round as she fled.

Three Des Moines patrol officers were present at the scene on the city’s east side, and one officer fired his handgun.

Grand View University

Grand View University in Des Moines is setting aside some grant money to establish an emergency fund for students. Administrators say the cash could be the difference between staying in school and leaving.

The school on the city’s east side is receiving $210,000 from Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation to establish the fund. Grand View provost Carl Moses says the money is meant for students who are faced with unexpected expenses when they are already struggling to make ends meet.

Creighton University

The Mid-American Business Conditions Index is at its highest point in six years. Supply managers in a nine-state region are optimistic looking ahead to the next six months.

The survey conducted by Creighton University is above the growth neutral mark of 50 for the seventh straight month. At 62.3, it is higher than it’s been since February of 2011. Creighton economist Ernie Goss says he could find very little bad in the report.

Rick Fredericksen, IPR

Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture is leading a delegation to Kosovo. The group includes representatives from business, education and sports.

Bill Northey is being joined by a number of representatives from higher education, including the presidents of Des Moines Area Community College and Iowa Central Community College. Northey says their work is of interest to educators in Kosovo.

Bravo Greater Des Moines

As the annual Des Moines Arts Festival gets underway, an arts support council is releasing an economic impact study. The results are meant to show the arts contribute to more than just the quality of life.

The study for the organization Bravo Greater Des Moines was conducted by the national group Americans for the Arts. It shows the arts are a $185 million industry in Central Iowa and employ nearly 5,700 full-time workers. The executive director of Bravo, Sally Dix, says the arts play a serious economic role.

AARP Iowa

On the day Senate Republicans unveiled their plan to revamp the nation’s healthcare system, AARP Iowa is releasing a survey of older Iowans’ attitudes on health policy. The organization is opposed to any plan that would weaken government programs already in place.

Grand Design Recreational Vehicles

Winnebago Industries’ purchase of an Indiana company last fall is continuing to pay off for the Forest City-based manufacturer of recreational vehicles. Third quarter earnings are way up from a year ago.

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.

"If the President's budget is passed, there would be dramatic reductions in staff, not only at the Ames Laboratory, but all of the national laboratories," he says.

Office of Sen. Joni Ernst

Iowa’s junior U.S. Senator is describing the mood at the Capitol as somber following the shootings at a Republican Congressional baseball practice. But Joni Ernst is hesitant to call for security to accompany each member of Congress.

Capitol police were at the ball field in Alexandria, Virginia, because of the presence of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was shot. They have been praised for their quick action to prevent more casualties. Republican Senator Ernst says members of Congress need to be vigilant, but she’s uncertain if they need armed protection.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

Drake University is officially opening a renovated building to house its occupational therapy doctorate program. It will be a place where students learn and patients are helped to recover.

A former bookstore has been converted into the home of Drake’s year-old doctorate program in occupational therapy. In addition to classrooms, it features a four-room apartment and a streetscape, complete with an automobile. A member of the first class of students in the program, Maddy Nave, says the caregivers of people with ALS recently came to the building for training.

Reid Chandlet, Trilix Group

Ten months after the announcement of its creation, the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator has a permanent executive director. The incubator for start-up companies involved in agriculture also is bringing in its first class of five.

Coon Valley Cooperative Telephone Association

A rural telephone cooperative in western Iowa is receiving a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help upgrade its broadband capabilities. The money will enable it to replace copper wires with fiber.

The Coon Valley Cooperative Telephone Association in the Guthrie County town of Menlo is getting a $6.5 million loan from the USDA. It will use the money to lay more than 200 miles of fiber. Association general manager Jim Nelson says access to high-speed internet is increasingly important for the cooperative’s 700 members.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

For the last year, city planners have been studying traffic patterns in downtown Des Moines with the goal of making the streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. They have now unveiled their early findings.

A preliminary plan includes the conversion of one-way streets downtown into two-ways, the addition of much more street parking and buffered lanes for bicyclists to make travel for them safer. The author of the book “Walkable City,” Jeff Speck, is helping redesign Des Moines’ downtown.

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