Business and Economy

Business and Economic news

JFK Presidential Library and Museum / Wikimedia Commons

While she was pregnant with her first child, Libby Buchmeier had been banking her vacation in anticipation of taking time off after the birth. When Buchmeier's daughter arrived 10 weeks early, she had to use the four weeks of paid maternity leave offered by her employer and much of that accumulated vacation time while her baby girl was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Drake University

Some of the African continent’s most promising young professionals are in Iowa for the next several weeks picking up tips on how to run businesses. They are part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship Program run by the U.S. State Department.

The founder of Kemin Industries, R.W. Nelson, recently greeted the 25 young people from 19 countries at his corporate headquarters in southeast Des Moines.

PeteLinforth/Pixabay.com

A new study by the United Way says 31-percent of Iowa households are struggling to afford their basic needs.

The finding is part of a United Way-sponsored ALICE report. It stands for Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed.

The report says 12-percent of Iowans live in poverty and 19-percent cannot afford the basic cost of living in their areas, forcing them to make concessions in areas like food and health care.

Deann Cook of the United Ways of Iowa says many of those struggling are in service sector jobs.

Linn County’s Board of Supervisors wants more information before deciding whether to raise the minimum wage in Cedar Rapids and surrounding communities.

That’s after the supervisors study committee recommended $8.25-an-hour, a dollar more than state law requires, but a dollar less than neighboring Johnson County.

Cedar Rapids mayor, Republican Ron Corbett, says the committee’s $8.25 recommendation is palatable, but warned that delays invited power struggles. But supervisors chairman, Democrat Ben Rogers, says ‘not so fast’.

A Linn County study commission is recommending increasing the county’s minimum wage to $8.25 an hour by January 1st.

The county board of supervisors convened the study commission. Linn Supervisors chairman Ben Rogers says he’ll take the commission’s recommendation to the supervisors’ meeting tomorrow.

The study commission supports Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett’s motion for increasing Linn County’s minimum wage. Corbett says it’s needed to help workers and to prod Iowa legislators.

Dakota Access map

The Iowa Utilities Board deliberated Wednesday on whether to allow Dakota Access to begin pipeline construction in areas where it does not need eminent domain or special permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Though board members indicated they were not opposed to Dakota Access starting construction, they worried they lacked the jurisdiction to grant permission, in light of current lawsuits pending in district court.

WIKICOMMONS / Iowahwyman

The Polk County community stands to lose millions in taxes, revenue sharing, and charitable donations now that IRS wants to pull the tax exempt status of a Des Moines-area casino. 

Between Polk County’s lease and revenue sharing agreements with Prairie Meadows, the hotel, casino, and racetrack contributes roughly $26 million annually the county.

Iowa economic development leaders are rolling out a new loan program to help communities spruce up, especially small towns.

Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham says low interest loans are available to communities through the Nuisance Property and Abandoned Building Remediation to get rid of eyesore properties. 

FLICKR / 401(K) 2012

If you still haven’t completed your 2015 state income taxes, today is the filing deadline. If you're late filing, be prepared to pay a penalty of an extra ten-percent on top of whatever you owe.

"I will say that typically there is a very slight grace period," says Victoria Daniels of the Iowa Department of Revenue, "but I encourage people strongly to get their returns in and file them electronically and make their payments no later than 11:59 pm."

WIKICOMMONS / Billwhittaker

Conventional wisdom says city-living is expensive. But a new report from an Iowa public policy group finds that's not always the case.

The Iowa Policy Project's 2016 "Cost of Living in Iowa" report finds that even though Iowa cities have higher rents and childcare costs, health insurance and long commutes eat up bigger portions of rural household budgets.

Photo by Amy Mayer

The country's top attorney on national security issues told Iowans Wednesday that all Internet-connected computers are potentially vulnerable to outside attacks.

John Carlin, assistant U.S. attorney general for national security, visited central Iowa to share with business leaders what the government sees as threats, and how companies can protect themselves.

Payton Chung, Flickr / Wikimedia Commons

When filmmaker Ronit Bezalel first arrived in Chicago as a film student in 1994, all she knew about Cabrini Green was its reputation. "I could see Cabrini from the windows of the 'L,' and people told me to avoid it at all costs. I wanted to know why I couldn't go there."

Linn County’s Supervisors are considering possibly raising the minimum wage in the region including Iowa’s second largest city, and have formed a study committee. Supervisors’ Chairman Ben Rogers says Linn County will thoroughly study increasing the Cedar Rapids area minimum wage.

“Many of us feel, like providers and community groups, felt that Johnson County rushed their discussion and implementation of the minimum wage,” he says.

Linn’s study committee includes small and large businesses, and hasn’t met yet.  Rogers says it could even recommend wage increase exemptions.

The Iowa Utilities Board has voted 3-0 to approve an oil pipeline across the state. Dakota Access had sought permission for the pipeline, which will carry crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois.  The line will run for nearly 350 miles through 18 Iowa counties, entering the state in the northwest corner, and exiting in the southeast.

PeteLinforth/Pixabay.com

Johnson County’s experiment setting a county minimum wage above the state’s $7.25 an hour produced another version last night.

Tiffin’s city council gave first reading to an ordinance setting wage minimums at $9 an hour.

The only ‘no’ vote came from council-woman Jo Kahler.

“I do not feel we have any business telling businesses what they should pay in wages,” she said in an interview on Tuesday.

Until Tiffin gives final approval to its own $9 ordinance, the Johnson County supervisors’ $8.20 an hour prevails.

Johnson County’s new ordinance incrementally raising the State’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by this time next year continues getting pushback.  Several communities are opting out, and last week a member of Iowa’s Board of Regents, objecting to increasing University of Iowa costs, said Johnson County is out-of-step with the rest of Iowa.

Tonight, the City Council in Tiffin takes up the issue.

Tiffin’s Council was considering keeping wages for workers under 18-years old at the state law amount, $7.25 an hour.

Paul Townsend/Flickr

A group of Iowa’s business leaders reports a slowdown in the number of people they expect to hire. The decline in the Iowa Business Council's latest report is likely a result of global economic forces driving down exports.

The survey finds that 30 percent of the group’s CEOs and chairmen say they’ll likely hire in the next six months. That’s down from 45 percent in the group’s December survey.

Astrid Westvang / Flickr

Launched in 2014, the Iowa Job Honor Awards celebrate Iowans who have overcome significant barriers to employment as well as honoring the employers who hire them. Those honored over the years include people who have overcome physical and mental disabilities, criminal convictions, limited English proficiency, homelessness, and long term unemployment.

Michael Leland/IPR

Iowa continues to grow as the nation’s leading wind energy state.

Governor Terry Branstad today is citing U.S. Energy Information Administration statistics showing 31-percent of all electricity generated in the state comes from wind power.

The data shows Iowa is the first and only state crossing the 30-percent mark in wind power.

South Dakota is second, generating 25-percent, and Kansas third with nearly 24-percent of total power generated coming from wind turbines.

Courtesy of Jingle Cross

Iowa City is home to one of the nation's largest cyclo-cross events, and the race will now become a World Cup event for the sport. Jingle Cross, which founder John Meehan organized for the first time in 2002, will be held at the Johnson County Fairgrounds September 22-25, 2016. 

Meehan says that even though cyclo-cross is a relatively new sport in Iowa, it's a great spectator event. 

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

The first diplomatic consulate in Iowa is officially open. The office in Des Moines seals a long-standing friendship between the state and the Republic of Kosovo.

Band members from the Iowa National Guard and the Kosovo Security Force joined to play the national anthems of Kosovo and the U.S.

The deputy prime minister of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci says his country decided to open its second U.S. consulate in Des Moines because of what Iowa did for his nation after the war in the Balkans.

Linn County’s Board of Supervisors is exploring increasing the minimum wage.  The county is home to Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s second largest city.   The minimum wage next door in Johnson County is already 95-cents higher than the state’s $7.25 an hour, and will go to ten dollars an hour two years from now.

Linn Supervisors Board chairman, Ben Rogers, says a possible increase in the county will be studied carefully and methodically.

Ben Kieffer

This edition of River to River kicks off Iowa Public Radio’s Iowa Week with the theme “then and now.”

constructionlessons.com

The construction industry in Iowa is moving into a busy first-half of 2016 with not enough workers to handle the jobs. Efforts are underway to attract more young people into the field.

Leaders in the building industry are promoting construction careers to students as young as middle-school age as a way to fill a gap in skilled laborers in Iowa.  The president of the Master Builders of Iowa, Chad Kleppe, says there are not enough carpenters, ironworkers, masons and other construction workers to attend to the hundreds of building projects in progress.

Greater Des Moines Partnership

 The Des Moines Metro area’s largest private employer is announcing plans to develop a history museum downtown.

Economic development leaders say it will be a linchpin to the revitalization of Walnut Street. 

Wells Fargo says it will open a 5,500-hundred-square-foot museum in its bank lobby a year from now.

City leaders say that times out perfectly with revitalization efforts on the street, which served for years as a hub for buses and was shut off to traffic.

Dani Ausen

While across the country first-time home buying is still down since the recession, it appears millennials are starting to move out of apartments or their parents basements. One place millennials are currently buying a majority of the houses is Des Moines.

Flickr / Jimmy Smith

Communities wanting to develop housing for a growing workforce can apply to the Iowa Finance Authority for low-interest loans. The state agency announced a new program Friday that provides $5 million in low-interest loans to create multifamily dwellings for low-to-moderate income renters.

Casey's General Stores, Inc.

Executives at the Ankeny-based convenience store chain Casey’s are calling the company’s first quarter results a good start to fiscal 2016. 

Casey’s is reporting record first quarter earnings of $1.57 per share, compared with $1.28 during the same period a year ago.

Company officials say sales were helped by low fuel prices and a higher demand for cigarettes.

Chief Financial Officer Bill Walljasper says Casey’s is continuing to expand.

Des Moines-based Meredith Corporation has been purchased for $2.4 billion from another media company. 

Meredith was bought by Virginia-based Media General which will form a new holding company. It will change its name to Meredith Media General and will maintain corporate and executive offices in both Des Moines and Richmond, Virginia. 

Clay Masters, Iowa Public Radio

Two views of the Iowa economy released Tuesday show steady growth, but not at the rate of recent months.

The surveys come from the Iowa Business Council and Creighton University’s Mid-America Business Conditions Index.

The overall economic outlook for the third-quarter of 2015 from the Council is off 12 points from last month and nine points from a year ago.

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