Business and Economy

Business and Economic news

Pat Blank

Five years ago, on May 12, 2008, Postville's kosher meat packing plant was the site the largest immigration raid in Iowa history. Iowa Public Radio's Pat Blank talks with some of those who were there then and who are still there now


Iowa’s biggest economic development deal was announced Wednesday. As Governor Terry Branstad puts it… it’s all about wind energy. Mid-American Energy will in invest 1-point-9 billion dollars in Iowa to add up to 1,050 megawatts of wind generation. That’s about 656 new wind turbines IN IOWA by 2016. Branstad says Iowa’s wind energy industry is a good selling point for high-tech companies like Facebook which just announced it would build a data center in Altoona, just outside of Des Moines.

Berkshire Hathaway

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway's newest Iowa acquisition, Prudential First Realty, soon will be adopting the “Berkshire Hathaway Home Services” logo. The company has 77 agents and three offices in central Iowa, and their “For Sale” signs that now say Prudential, will be converted to Berkshire Hathaway.

Brennan Buckley is a company marketing executive in Des Moines.

Mississippi River Levels Rise Slowly

Mar 15, 2013
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." 

Retrieving Freedom

Feb 21, 2013
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

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.

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.  

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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."

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.

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.

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.

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

Wasendorf Waits

Jul 26, 2012
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.

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.

Financial Fallout

Jul 11, 2012

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.

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.

New Skills=New Life

Jul 2, 2012
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Cedar Rapids: Two Years After the Flood

Jun 13, 2010

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.