Business and Economy

Business and Economic news

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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.

Dean Borg/IPR

The first renters are now moving into Forest City’s first market-rate housing to be constructed in the North Iowa community in more than 25 years. The project helps ease the housing shortage squeezing workers away from jobs in many communities such as Forest City.

The Westown Place three-story building results from the community’s economic development organization taking over when private developers passed over the community’s request for proposals to build.

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.

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.”

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.

Clay Masters / IPR

 

There's been a lot of talk lately about restoring trust in American journalism. The proliferation of the term "fake news" is probably the most prominent sign of a media industry currently under siege. A Pew Research study found that as of 2016, about 25 percent of Americans express high levels of trust in news they get from local news organizations, while about 15 percent trust information from their social connections.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media file photo

A few days before Iowa’s new medical marijuana law takes effect, a Minnesota cannabis producer says his business is not yet profitable two years into that state’s program. The two states have similar medical cannabis laws, but Iowa’s is more restrictive.

Iowa’s new law will allow for two medical cannabis manufacturers and five dispensaries in the state.

Dr. Andrew Bachman, the CEO of Leafline Labs, says Minnesota’s law creates a more sustainable business climate, in part because Iowa’s law limits the THC content of medical cannabis.

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.

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.

City of Cedar Rapids

The latest report on existing industries in the Cedar Rapids area shows employers remain concerned about the number of available workers. The outlook, however, is more positive than a year ago.

Each year, the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance surveys around 85 business executives and plant managers from a wide spectrum of industries to get their views on the area’s economic climate. The Alliance’s local business projects specialist, Mike Lukan, says workforce availability continues to be a challenge in Cedar Rapids. But things are looking up.

Casey's General Stores

Ankeny-based convenience store chain Casey’s General Stores is reporting it fell short of some of its goals for fiscal 2017. While in-store traffic was up almost three percent at the nearly 2,000-store chain, executives had hoped for 6.2 percent growth. Casey’s President and CEO Terry Handley says the company faced the same pressures in 2017 everyone in the grocery industry confronted.

Flickr / Superb Colours

This is the first year fireworks can be sold in Iowa. So far there are 12 licensed retailers, though that number may grow to nearly 1,000. 

Retailers hypothetically were able to start selling bottle rockets, ground spinners and roman candles on June 1st. But since the bill was signed into law only last month, State Fire Marshal Jeff Quigle says it’s taken his office a bit of time to figure out the licensing process, which usually could take more than six months to create.

Kirkwood Community College

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and former Governor Terry Branstad have marked 2017 as the "Year of Manufacturing." But what is the state of manufacturing in Iowa?

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer explores the future of advanced manufacturing and skilled labor in Iowa.  

Nathan Thornton, a second year welding student at Kirkwood Community College, says he has an optimistic outlook for his career path.

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