Business and Economy

Business and Economic news

NewLink Genetics

Ames-based NewLink Genetics is continuing to shed employees as it works to bring a cancer-fighting drug to market. The latest round of layoffs includes a couple of members from its management team.

For the third summer in a row, NewLink is announcing a reduction in its workforce. One of the employees departing the company is executive vice president and chief financial officer Jack Henneman, who plans to retire.

Creighton University

A Midwest economist is predicting a slowdown in the economy beginning as early as the last half of this year. He says a number of factors are putting the U.S. economy at risk.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss points to inflationary pressures, which are leading to higher interest rates as factors slowing economic growth. He says in the Midwest, trade tensions are “a clear and present danger” to the overall economy.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A planned expo space in Northwest Iowa is intended to bring more events, farm and tractor shows to the community. Woodbury County is talking about reconsidering its financial commitment. 

GotCredit / Flickr

Iowans concerned about their job security can buy some peace of mind with a new type of insurance. Iowa is the second state to offer layoff insurance to workers, after Wisconsin.

The plans, which pay out a lump-sum if a person is laid off or becomes unable to work, are expanding now to additional states.

Mark Greene, director of SafetyNet, the company that created this type of insurance, says too many people don’t have enough savings to deal with a sudden disruption in their income.

arileu via flickr creative commons / https://www.flickr.com/photos/arileu/10597303795/in/photolist-h9rXdp-hbVuus

More than a third of Iowans across 457,223 households can’t afford basic expenses like housing and transportation, according to a new report from the United Way. In spite of economic recoveries since the Great Recession, many Iowans' wages aren't keeping up with the cost of living.

Kate Payne / IPR

Ten years after floodwaters devastated downtown Cedar Rapids, many businesses have returned and some new ones have opened up. For some, that reinvestment was tied to the city’s commitment to build a permanent flood control system. But a decade later, businesses are still waiting for that protection. 

John Pemble / IPR

After a tense weekend of economic negotiations with the United States' closest allies at the Group of 7 Summit, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley is warning that President Donald Trump's tactics are threatening the state's farmers. At a tumultuous time in international trade relations, Grassley joined IPR's River to River to talk tariffs, North Korea and the Justice Department with host Ben Kieffer.

Winnebago Industries

Forest City-based Winnebago Industries is taking to the water. The recreational vehicle manufacturer is acquiring a well-known boat builder.

Winnebago is making its first entry into the marine market by buying Sarasota, Fla.-based Chris-Craft.

The Iowa RV manufacturer is purchasing the company, whose founding dates back to 1874, from a London investment firm for an undisclosed amount.

The vice president of strategic planning and development for Winnebago, Ashis Bhattacharya, says the company is tapping into a growing market of boaters.

Vaping360 via flickr creative commons / http://vaping360.com/cbd-oil-cannabidiol-hemp-oil/

The city of Cedar Rapids is still hoping to land a medical marijuana production center. That’s after state regulators passed over Iowa's second-largest city for a dispensary earlier this year. 

Mike Fritcher via flickr creative commons / https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikefritcherphotography/28345182261/in/photolist-YaC8mq-6Kpc5g-iZdW55-J8XkmS-axeGbk-26QwzgE-JKtZ1s-cZGHow-cZGHvu-P51BXw-Pcu4pu-NhAr6x-NZebRo-BJjbh-4MzPnm-JF4FM-4NigoN-QmtcLo-HzGfZK-FC9jEG-G2sQzj-Fb15fq-FFkzTh-FcS3jf-stNvQ-JYi

Federal officials have selected 62 Iowa communities  for a new Opportunity Zone program. The effort is meant to encourage investment in underserved areas. But Iowa officials say they're still waiting for more details on how the program will actually work.

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.

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