Ongoing Coverage:

Business and Economy

Business and Economy
3:57 pm
Fri March 15, 2013

Mississippi River Levels Rise Slowly

Water levels on the Mississippi are rising —thanks to snow melts and recent precipitation
Credit Clay Masters, Iowa Public Radio.

It got pretty shaky there for a bit, as river levels fell dangerously low, slowing down barge traffic essential to exporting Iowa’s grain crops. Mike Peterson with the Army Corps of Engineers in St. Louis says they were able to keep boats moving until mother nature stepped in to make the Mississippi navigable again. 

"I think it’s a source of relief for a lot of folks in the Corps, the Coast Guard and the river industry." 

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Business/Economy
3:19 pm
Thu February 21, 2013

Retrieving Freedom

Army veteran Chad Johnson and his dog Copper
Pat Blank

A unique project in Northeast Iowa combines Wartburg College students with service dogs-in-training who will eventually be paired with military veterans or children with special needs.  The dogs can profoundly assist physically and emotionally wounded soldiers and give hope to families who need a boost to help cope with a child with challenges. The non-profit organization Retrieving Freedom is supplying the dogs. Their website is retrievingfreedom.org.

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Business/Economy
5:10 pm
Thu January 31, 2013

Former CEO Wasendorf sentenced to 50 years

Credit Courtesy photo

A  federal judge has sentenced 64- year- old Russell  Wasendorf, Sr. to 50 years in prison.  Last July, following an attempted suicide, Wasendorf  admitted to stealing more than 215 million dollars in customer funds from his Cedar Falls brokerage firm Peregrine Financial Group.

In a plea agreement in September, he pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud, embezzlement and making false statements. 50 years is the maximum punishment for those offenses. There is no parole in the federal court system. He was sentenced by Chief Judge Linda Reade.

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Business/Economy
9:13 pm
Tue January 8, 2013

Shipping Woes Along the Mississippi River

A grain elevator owned by Cargill sits along the Mississippi River in Muscatine, Iowa.
Credit Clay Masters / IPR

With lingering drought keeping the crucial Mississippi River waterway at historically low levels, some projected that barge traffic on the river would come to a scraping halt in early January. It hasn’t proved to be quite as bad – the Army Corps of Engineers now says the river will likely stay open for transportation at least through the month – but many grain and energy industries that rely on sending products up and down the river aren’t yet breathing a sigh of relief.  

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Business/Economy
7:01 am
Thu January 3, 2013

Iowa Wind Industry Leaders Praise Extension of Tax Credit

Credit Iowa Wind Energy Association / Facebook

The “Fiscal Cliff” bill signed by President Obama includes renewal tax credits for wind energy. Iowa is third in the nation for wind power production.

Wind energy companies here claim the incentives are essential for the growth of the industry. Harold Prior is the Executive Director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association. He says as the deadline approached without guaranteed renewal, investors were hesitant to start projects.

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Business/Economy
1:44 am
Mon December 24, 2012

Curbside Bus Services Increase in Iowa, United States

A Double Decker Megabus idles in Omaha. It makes stops in Des Moines and Iowa City before reaching its final destination of Chicago.
Credit Clay Masters / IPR

More than 93 million people are expected to be jumping in their cars and traveling this holiday season according to Triple-A. But there’s a new trend emerging that is rivaling the car and even some airlines. Curbside buses are extending routes. Even through the unlikely sparsely populated Midwest and Great Plains.

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Business/Economy
5:30 am
Fri December 14, 2012

Lake Delhi Frustration and Hope

The Maquoketa River runs through the Lake Delhi dam.
Rick Fredericksen

Complex negotiations continue as the State of Iowa partners with landowners in Delaware County, in hopes of bringing back Lake Delhi.  Part 2 of 3.

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Business/Economy
5:30 am
Thu December 13, 2012

Lake Delhi's Massive Loss

Hartwick Marina, on the water line where Lake Delhi used to be.
Rick Fredericksen

It was almost 2 and a half years ago when flooding swamped Lake Delhi; the dam washed out, and the lake vanished down river. Today, efforts are underway to bring it back. The economic impact is mounting.

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Business/Economy
6:20 pm
Mon November 19, 2012

Help for idled Hostess workers

Credit Pat Blank

A blue and white “Now Hiring” sign hangs on the front of the Wonder Bread bakery in downtown Waterloo.  It’s an outdated sign because not only is the company not adding workers, last Friday it laid off everyone who worked there.  Parent company Hostess has filed for bankruptcy idling nearly 19 thousand workers across the country. A federal judge is considering the case and has agreed to mediation.

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Business/Economy
3:46 pm
Tue November 6, 2012

Iowa utility crews in NY brace for second storm

Alliant Energy crews from Iowa and Wisconsin work to restore power in New York state.
Credit Courtesy photo

Hundreds of Iowa utility workers are on the East Coast helping restore power to the thousands knocked offline by Super Storm Sandy. Just as progress is being made, another storm threatens to undo much of the work already accomplished. Lead Safety Consultant for Alliant Energy in Cedar Rapids, Kent Sodawasser says crew members are struggling with downed trees.  Sodawasser says he was humbled today when a man wearing a red, white and blue tie shook his hand and said, "Thanks for putting my power back on, now I don't have to watch over my generator and I can go and vote."

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Business/Economy
5:51 pm
Mon October 29, 2012

Iowa Utility Crews Head to the East Coast

Credit Courtesy photo

Utility crews from throughout the country including several from Iowa are on their way to the East Coast to be on the scene for anticipated power outages from the Hurricane Sandy.   More than 100 Alliant Energy employees left Cedar Rapids for the journey yesterday including Kent Sodawasser who joins Iowa Public Radio’s Pat Blank by phone from Pennsylvania. Kent Sodawasser is Lead Safety Consultant for Alliant Energy. We hope to check in with the crew again as the storm progresses this week.

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Business/Economy
2:19 pm
Mon September 17, 2012

Giant Wind Towers For Massive Wind Power

One of the largest wind towers in North America under construction in a farm field in Notheast Iowa
Dean Borg

      With the wind energy tax credit about to expire at the end of this year….power companies are using favorable fall weather to install more towers across Iowa’s landscape.

      Cranes are working in an Eastern Iowa cornfield near Mechanicsville to build what will be the tallest wind generator in North America.                  

 Two towers….one concrete and the other steel…..and the generators are being built by Acciona (AX-SEE-OH-NA) which has a plant in West Branch, Iowa.

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Business/Economy
7:59 am
Tue July 31, 2012

Iowa's Population Growth

While Iowa's total population grew by 2.8 percent over the past nine years, the 2010 Census Report shows that the growth has occurred in the state's largest cities and their suburbs, while the rural areas are losing residents.

Business/Economy
7:44 am
Tue July 31, 2012

Iowa Communities Struggling to Survive

Iowa's smallest towns are shrinking- the total population living in towns of one-thousand people or less decreased by seven percent in the last decade.  We conclude our summer series on Iowa towns and cities with a look at communities struggling to survive.  Charity talks with Jeff Schott of the University of Iowa's Institute of Public Affairs.  Schott reveals the latest census numbers focusing on parts of the state experiencing population loss.  Also joining the conversation- Sac County Economic Development Director Shirley Phillips, Decorah author Robert Wolf and Cedar Rapids entrepreneur

Business/Economy
3:38 pm
Thu July 26, 2012

Wasendorf Waits

Russell Wasendorf Sr. outside his now closed 18 million dollar office building in rural Cedar Falls
Waterloo Courier

Russell Wasendorf had hoped tomorrow would be the day he’d be released on bail...

But the hearing's been postponed, so the former head of Peregrine Financial Group remains in jail…

and the business empire he built,  first in Chicago and then later in Iowa,  continues to crumble. 

His once fairy tale like existence came to an abrupt end earlier this month.

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Business/Economy
5:54 pm
Wed July 18, 2012

Drought sinks teeth into Iowa cities

A sign warning of a blue-green algae bloom is posted on Sandpiper beach on Saylorville Lake. The Des Moines Water Works could tap this lake for its water supply if water levels along the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers continue to decrease.
Clay Masters IPR

With drought conditions now gripping more than half the country, many farmers in Iowa are waiting to see if they’ll even have much of a crop to harvest. While farm country feels the brunt of the drought, those in the city are also being hit. Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters reports.

Business/Economy
7:03 pm
Wed July 11, 2012

Financial Fallout

Courtesy

Economic development officials have begun to assess the fallout from the abrupt closure of the Cedar Falls-based international brokerage firm, Peregrine Financial Group doing business as PFGBest.  The company is being investigated by both governmental and regulatory officials for fraud and misuse of customer money.  220 million dollars is reportedly missing, Company founder, 64 year old Russell Wasendorf Sr. attempted suicide on Monday. CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber, Steve Dust says they're reacting to what they know and discounting what they can't verify.

Business/Economy
6:28 am
Mon July 9, 2012

Can't find a law job? Think small.

John Pabst, 66, practices law in Albia, Iowa, in the Victorian house he and his father bought as a law office in the late 1970s.
Sarah McCammon Iowa Public Radio

Plenty of young aspiring lawyers dream of landing at a high-powered big-city firm after graduating. So an internship in a sleepy, rural town might not sound like a dream summer job. But that’s just what three law schools in Iowa and Nebraska are encouraging their students to consider.

And with new grads facing one of the worst job markets in decades, some say working in smaller towns is looking better.

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Business/Economy
6:53 pm
Mon July 2, 2012

New Skills=New Life

Tanaha Pettit of Waterloo, who was in prison in 2009, has completed the new manufacturing careers certificate program and works at Bruns Machine in Cedar Falls.
Pat Blank

The job market can be a challenge for anyone these days, but imagine what it’s like for someone who’s spent time in prison or who has a less than stellar work history for other reasons.  Iowa Public Radio’s Pat Blank reports on an innovative program in Northeast Iowa that’s slowly making a difference.

Business/Economy
4:40 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Last Call for Flooded Residents

Nearly four years after the 2008 flood in Cedar Rapids, you can still sell your damaged home to the city. That window’s about to close, however. More than 100 people have signed up for the final round of buyouts – even though they’ve stuck it out this long. Iowa Public Radio’s Kate Wells reports.

Business/Economy
8:05 am
Tue May 8, 2012

How Not to Live in Your Mom's Basement After Graduation

With all the gloomy news about job prospects these days, seniors can feel like their diploma is a one-way ticket to mom’s basement. But there are young adults who’ve landed on their feet – and learned how to make it in this tough economy.

Business
7:00 am
Tue April 17, 2012

Digital Upgrades Threaten Small Town Theatres

The theater in Forest City is one small town cinema that closed due to digital conversion costs.
IPR/Dean Borg

The familiar movie-opening theme is fading in many of Iowa’s small communities. Many main-street theaters, caught in a technological dilemma, are closing. But as Iowa Public Radio’s Dean Borg, reports some communities are scrambling to preserve main stret silver screens.

Business
5:00 am
Tue April 17, 2012

Higher gas prices may affect volunteer programs

The Triple A’s average price for a gallon of regular gas this week is three dollars and ninety cents a gallon. That has a lot of people thinking about how much and where they drive. Iowa Public Radio’s Pat Blank reports, it’s also taking a bite out of some volunteer programs like Meals on Wheels.

Business and Economy
6:00 am
Tue September 27, 2011

Being African-American in Iowa: Economy

Today, we continue with our “Being in Iowa” series. All this week, IPR reporter Rob Dillard is asking the question, what does it mean to be African-American in the state? Nearly a third of all blacks in Iowa live below the poverty line. They earn on average less than half of white households, and their unemployment rate is more than double the overall state figure. Rob introduces us to three African-Americans, who are working to improve their economic standing with some assistance along the way.

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Business and Economy
11:00 pm
Wed July 7, 2010

China's labor shortage hits home

Soaring labor costs in China and a strengthening Chinese currency that makes exports more expensive is being felt in Iowa. Products, especially electronic components are becoming harder to get and in some cases are slowing the progress of building projects. Iowa Public Radio's Pat Blank talks with Des Moines architect Tim Hickman about how China's economy and the economic climate of other countries factors into the budget of projects here.

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Business and Economy
11:00 pm
Thu June 17, 2010

Immigration economics expert advocates legal path to citizenship

Morning Edition Host Sarah McCammon talks with Raul Hinojosa, founder of the North American Integration and Development Center in California, about the economics of immigration in Iowa.

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Business and Economy
11:00 pm
Sun June 13, 2010

Cedar Rapids: Two Years After the Flood

Two years ago at this time communities across Iowa were underwater. The floods of 2008 impacted dozens of neighborhoods but those in Cedar Rapids were among the hardest hit. Iowa Public Radio's Kate Wells and Alex Heuer report on signs of progress and the challenges still facing the community.

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Business and Economy
11:00 pm
Mon May 24, 2010

IBM's Impact in Dubuque

By the end of the year, IBM will employ about 1,300 people in Dubuque. Local leaders are calling the technology giant's move to the city last August a resurgence and the community has become a testing ground for business expansion within the United States.

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Business and Economy
11:00 pm
Sun May 23, 2010

Community banks fear impact of Wall Street reforms

Some small-town Iowa bankers say while they support reforms aimed at big banks, they shouldn't have to deal with additional regulations aimed at Wall Street.

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Business and Economy
11:00 pm
Wed May 12, 2010

Lyon County Casino

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission is granting just one new casino license. Commissioners say only Lyon County in the northwest corner of the state can move ahead with its project. Iowa Public Radio’s Rob Dillard reports the commissioners say they’re worried casinos in Ottumwa, Fort Dodge and Tama County would pull business away from existing casinos.

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