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.

Courtesy of Winnebago Industries, Inc. Unauthorized use not permitted.

Revenues at Forest City-based RV manufacturer Winnebago Industries are on the uptick. It’s almost entirely because of a move into smaller, less expensive vehicles.

Hunger-free Polk County

Donations to the Des Moines Area Religious Council’s Food Pantry Network are not keeping up with demand. The Network is seeing more people looking for food than ever in its 40-year history.

The Religious Council provides food to 13 pantries around Greater Des Moines. In November, it supplied 18,415 people with provisions, a record number. The Council’s executive director Sarai Rice says there has been a steady increase in demand since the Great Recession.

Iowa Workforce Development

Iowa’s unemployment rate took a significant drop in November. It went from 4.1 percent to 3.8 percent. A spokeswoman for Iowa Workforce Development, Courtney Greene, says unemployment in the state is at its lowest point since March.

“That’s due in part to holiday or seasonal hiring, and also the great fall weather we experienced this year," she says. "However, the economy remains soft as we transition to seasonal unemployment during the winter months.”

Greene says Iowa’s economy also shed around 47-hundred jobs last month.

Christopher Gannon, Iowa State University

A record number of students will receive diplomas Saturday at Iowa State University’s commencement ceremony. The large number of December graduates reflects the overall enrollment figures at the school.

“Iowa State for the nine-past years has had record enrollments," says Laura Doering, the Iowa State University registrar. "In consideration of that, a decade ago we were 11,000 students smaller.”

Doering says the university is also retaining more students.

“This year’s one-year retention rate was 87.1, which exceeds the 10-year average,” she says.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Low-income pregnant women in the Des Moines area will for the first time have access to a computer app to help monitor their health. It’s designed to keep them in close contact with their doctors during various stages of pregnancy.

The app is called Baby Blocks. It’s being offered by UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Iowa, one of the three managed care organizations serving the state’s Medicaid patients. The chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare, KellyAnn Light-McGroary, says the app will help keep expectant mothers on track with their doctor’s appointments.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Construction is continuing on two buildings at Drake University in Des Moines that are part of a $52 million investment in STEM education at the private school.

Drake is offering a number of new programs in the science fields. They include a doctorate degree in occupational therapy, undergraduate degrees in Kinesiology and data analytics, and a master’s in athletic training, which will start in the fall of 2019. Drake President Marty Martin says the new buildings will support these endeavors.

Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest

Researchers at the University of Missouri are releasing a first-of-its-kind study on the mobility of teachers and principals from job-to-job within Iowa. The findings might prove useful to policymakers.  

University of Iowa

There’s been a delay in opening the new children’s hospital at the University of Iowa. The planned opening has been pushed back a couple of months.

Construction on the $360 million Stead Family Children’s Hospital began in 2014. At 14-stories, it will be the tallest building in Iowa City. A spokesman for the university, Tom Moore, says in November officials received word from the contractor.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

A number of health organizations are joining the push to fund the dormant Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. They contend it will lead Iowans to more active lifestyles.

Iowa voters approved the fund by 63 percent in 2010. It has never held any money. Supporters are calling on the Legislature to approve a three-eighths cent sales tax increase to fill its coffers. A campaign coordinator with the American Heart Association, Seth Johnson, says his group is joining Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy coalition to draw support for hiking trails and other outdoor activities.

Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

A Washington, D.C.-based think tank is out with a report looking at the degree to which high-tech innovation contributes to the economy in each of the nation’s 435 Congressional districts. Iowa’s four districts are showing large numbers for the exports of high-tech manufactured goods and intellectual property.

Iowa Department of Education

A report issued Tuesday gives an early glimpse at how well the state’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation Program is working. The study indicates improved classroom instruction, which is yet to show up in the form of improved student achievement.

Principal Financial Group

The Des Moines-based financial services company Principal Financial Group is projecting steady growth during 2017. The expectations follow a pattern of revenue increases the company has seen over the past several years.

Iowa Reading Research Center

The Iowa Reading Research Center is out with the results of a study into the effectiveness of summer reading programs. The report comes as every school district in the state approaches a deadline to enact some form of summer reading program.

A long-planned highway extension in Cedar Rapids is nearing completion of its first phase. Development officials say the project will eventually lead to massive growth on the city’s west side.

By mid-December, a four-mile stretch of Highway 100 between Edgewood and Covington roads should be open to traffic. The four-lane divided highway includes a bridge over the Cedar River. The Director of Community Development in Cedar Rapids, Jennifer Pratt, says the bypass will ease traffic congestion in the city and open up a huge swath of land for development.

Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance

Economic development officials in Cedar Rapids are preparing a plot of land on the city’s southwest side for a future industrial park. They say the site has the potential to become the state’s biggest certified location for large-scale industries.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Des Moines Area Community College and Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant are joining to offer a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing completion program. It will be open to students who earn their Registered Nurse associate degrees at DMACC.

It’s being called the RN-to-BSN 3+1 completion program. Graduates of DMACC’s nursing program will be able to complete their BSN degrees in one year by taking on-line courses provided by Iowa Wesleyan. 

For nontraditional students such as Lashaina Woods of Waterloo, the initiative comes with significant cost savings.

Sarah Boden, Iowa Public Radio

The Linn County Attorney is calling for a grand jury investigation into the shooting of Jerime (Jeremy) Mitchell by Cedar Rapids police officer Lucas Jones.

Jerry Vander Sanden says he has reviewed materials supplied by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and determined it’s in the “public interest” for a grand jury to look into whether criminal charges are warranted.

Mitchell was left paralyzed by the shooting.

Vander Sanden says he is in the process of selecting the seven-person panel.

It takes votes from five jury members to return an indictment. 

Iowa Home Prices Climb

Nov 18, 2016
Dan Moyle / Flicker

Home prices in Iowa are on the rise.

The monthly report from the Iowa Association of Realtors shows the median sale price in October was $145,000, 5.1 percent higher than a year ago.

Association president Cindy Miller says it’s a seller’s market at the moment.

“I think what we have right now is a lower inventory, which will drive supply-and-demand and drive the price up a little bit,” she says.

Miller sees that changing in the coming months.

Mercy Medical Center

Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines is opening the state’s first obstetrics emergency department.  It will be staffed around-the-clock by OB-GYN doctors.

Officials at Hy-Vee are reporting so-called skimmers had been discovered attached to ATMs in three Des Moines-area stores. These devices are used to steal debit and credit card information. 

A spokesman for the Iowa Attorney General’s office says incidents involving skimmers in Iowa are rare, and happen mostly at gas stations, not at ATMs. Communications director Geoff Greenwood points to some things that might indicate a machine has been messed with.

The nonprofit Iowa Policy Project is out with the third part of its 2016 study on the cost of living in the state.This one focuses on the public support systems in place to assist low-income working families.

The report by the research director at the Iowa Policy Project, Peter Fisher, identifies so-called “cliff effects” within low-income assistance programs. These occur when a families higher wages result in the loss of public support. He says, for example, Child Care Assistance disappears at 145 percent of the poverty level.


The Imam at the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids says Muslims in his community are reacting with a mix of fear and sadness to the election of Donald Trump as president.

Hassan Salim says he hopes President-elect Donald Trump will watch his language when talking about Islam.

“There are millions of American Muslims who are truly hurt every time he does not distinguish between what Islam is, what American Muslims are, and radical Islam. These are two separate things and he needs to make it very clear.”

Clay Masters, Iowa Public Radio

Members of Iowa’s Latino community are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward newly elected President Donald Trump. They admit to fear and anxiety over comments he’s made about immigration, but they also express hope he’ll eventually see the light.

John Pemble/IPR

Senator Charles Grassley’s re-election to a seventh term was called as soon as the polls closed in Iowa. The 83-year-old Senator says there’s still work to do when he returns to Washington.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Local and regional chapters of the NAACP hosted the Fourth Annual Iowa Summit on Justice and Disparities Friday in Ankeny. The gathering comes one year after a governor appointed working group made recommendations on criminal justice policy reform. 

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence made his seventh campaign stop in Iowa since his party’s national convention Thursday. He appeared before an estimated 325 people in a machine shed on a Warren County farm. 

Des Moines and Urbandale Police Departments

Police in Des Moines and Urbandale says two officers killed in ambush-style attacks this morning were likely shot before they saw their assailant.

Urbandale Officer Justin Martin, who has been with the department for about 15 months, and Des Moines Police Sgt. Anthony Beminio were killed in separate attacks, about two miles and 20-minutes apart, while sitting in their patrol cars early this morning.

Michael Leland, Iowa Public Radio

A sociologist at Iowa State University has uncovered something that goes against common belief. He says income levels in rural areas of the state are higher than in the urban centers.

Extension rural sociologist David Peters has studied census data on income and poverty levels nationwide, and he has broken it down state-by-state. He finds the median household income in rural areas of Iowa is a bit more than $60,000, 11 percent higher than in cities. He says one reason may be three-quarters of Iowa farms are so-called “hobby farms.”

Heartland Financial USA

A Dubuque-based banking operation is merging with a similar group of banks in California. The deal is designed to expand the Iowa company’s position on the West Coast.

Heartland Financial USA is acquiring Founders Bancorp of San Luis Obispo, Calif., for around 29-million dollars in cash and stock. The deal is expected to close during the first quarter of 2017. Heartland Chairman and CEO Lynn Fuller says the market on the Pacific Ocean halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco is economically strong.

University of Dubuque

The University of Dubuque is becoming one of the rare four-year colleges to add helicopter flight training to its catalog of courses. The school is responding to a growing demand for pilots.

The University already offers a Bachelor of Science degree in flight operations, and provides flight training in fixed-wing aircraft. Beginning with the spring term in January, it will teach students how to fly choppers. The Director of the Aviation Program at Dubuque, Steven Accinelli, says potential students were asking for helicopter training because of the strong job outlook for pilots.