Business and Economy

Business and Economic news

Winnebago Industries

Forest City-based Winnebago Industries is enhancing its production of electric commercial vehicles. It involves a partnership with a California manufacturer.

Winnebago has had a specialty vehicles division for 30 years. Now because of an arrangement with San Francisco Bay area-based Motiv Power Systems, it will be able to use chassis built specially for electric commercial vehicles. The vice president of strategic planning and development for Winnebago, Ashis Bhattacharya, says the mobile units will have a range of between 85-and-125 miles per single charge.

Iowa Business Council

The state’s largest employers are anticipating economic growth over the next six months. An ongoing shortage of quality workers may get in the way.

The quarterly Economic Outlook Survey from the Iowa Business Council shows 80 percent of its members expect higher sales through summer. To meet demand, half say they will increase capital spending and nearly half forecast hiring more workers. The problem, says the Council’s executive director Georgia Van Gundy, is attracting and retaining a quality workforce in Iowa.

quasicasa via flickr creative commons / https://www.flickr.com/photos/quasicasa/

Johnson County is raising its suggested minimum wage to $10.27 an hour. While officials can’t legally enforce the change, they hope it will set a new baseline for worker pay. 

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.

Dean Borg/IPR file photo

Cedar Rapids’ largest employer is moving its executive headquarters to Florida. Rockwell-Collins is being acquired by United Technology Corporation, and renamed Collins Aerospace Systems.

That announcement was made last year, and since then there’s been speculation - and fears - that the company’s headquarters would be moved away from Cedar Rapids.

Confirming those fears, U-T-C says Rockwell-Collins’ executive headquarters are moving to Palm Beach County, Florida. The company’s avionics and mission systems are remaining in Cedar Rapids.

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.

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.

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.

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.

inkknife_2000/flickr

A north Iowa business consultant is painting a picture of deteriorating finances for Iowa farmers, as the agricultural economy continues to languish.    

David Underwood of Mason City  is one of three members of the Revenue Estimating Conference, which this week predicted essentially flat state tax collections this year due in part to weakness in the farm sector.      

Underwood said up to now, farmers had enough reserves to get them through the recent lean times.

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.

Meredith Corp.

Des Moines, Iowa Based Meredith Corporation has agreed to purchase Time Incorporated – the publisher of magazines like Time and Sports Illustrated. The deal was made possible by a hefty investment from the conservative brothers Charles and David Koch. Meredith has agreed to buy Time for $2.8 billion. This is the third time the Iowa-based company which owns magazines like Family Circle and Betters Homes and Gardens has attempted to make the purchase.

Michael Leland/IPR / Iowa Public Radio

While millions of Americans are beginning their holiday shopping at big-box stores and online, some are also looking for something they won't find in larger stores.  About 75 artists and other creators from Iowa and nearby states took part in the annual "Market Day" pop-up market in downtown Des Moines. 

"We really exist to serve the people out there who are shopping on Black Friday anyway, and are looking for something that's sort of one-of-a-kind, and to support [the] local economy," says Cat Rocketship, the event's co-director.

Ames Economic Development Commission

More than 700 acres on the east side of Ames is opening up for development as an industrial park. City leaders hope to attract some large-scale manufacturing operations.

The Ames Economic Development Commission and Alliant Energy are jointly working to develop the mostly farm land east of I-35 and north of Highway 30 stretching to the Nevada city limits. The 730 acres will be broken into five lots and sell for $25,000 an acre. The president of the economic development commission, Dan Culhane, says easy access to the interstate and rail lines makes the area attractive.

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.

Karen/Flickr

Postal workers in Des Moines are protesting what they say is a reduction in the number of people working in the clerical division, which processes mail.  American Postal Workers Union Local 44 says 36 clerical workers at the main Des Moines post office have been moved out of those positions this year.

“That is cutting jobs out of the clerk craft, who process the mail, and we’re seeing a problem with that with the mail service,” says local President Mike Bates.   

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.

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.”

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.

Dean Borg/IPR

Casino operators and supporters from Eastern Iowa communities where the casinos are located don’t want Iowa’s Racing and Gaming Commission to license new competition in Cedar Rapids.

During a Tuesday public hearing on three requests to establish gambling in downtown Cedar Rapids, casino representatives from Waterloo, Bettendorf, Dubuque, Riverside, and Tama all said another casino would cannibalize business from their operations. They contend Iowa’s gaming market is saturated.

Jon S/Flickr

The owners of the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald newspaper are expanding their holdings of community newspapers. Woodward Communications, which publishes Dubuque’s daily newspaper as well as weekly newspapers in Dyersville, Manchester and Cascade, is acquiring West  Branch Communications, co-owned by Jake Krob of Mount Vernon and Stuart Clark of West Branch.  The sale includes several publications.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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