Rob Dillard


Rob Dillard is a Des Moines based correspondent for Iowa Public Radio. He joined IPR in 2001 as host of Morning Edition and moved to reporting in 2007.  He has been on special assignment for IPR since early 2011 reporting the ongoing series “Being in Iowa.” It has taken him around the state shining light on small segments of the population, including Muslims, military veterans, Latinos and the physically disabled. The series has won awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) and Northwest Broadcast News Association (NBNA).

Rob has extensive experience in radio, newspaper and media relations dating back more than 30 years. He has also taught news writing at Central College in Pella. Rob earned his bachelor’s degree in mass communications at the University of Iowa.

Rob’s favorite public radio program is Morning Edition.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

Sherry Poole officially began the job as principal at Hoover High School July 1. Less than three weeks later, the Hoover softball team won the Class 4A state title. Not a bad start.

“Some of the other principals around the metro were so encouraging and so nice, and they sent me a text saying, 'Wow, how are you going to top that?'" she says with a laugh. "So, it’s been a fun ride.” 

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.

Public Art Foundation of Greater Des Moines

A new piece of public art in downtown Des Moines honors a little known chapter in the city’s civil rights history.

John Pemble/IPR file

The Iowa governor who opened the state’s arms and heart to boatloads of Southeast Asian refugees in the years following the Vietnam War has died at the age of 89.

Bob Ray was a 40-year-old attorney and chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa when he was first elected governor in 1968.

During a time of social and political turmoil, he brought a measured approach to the job.

He held the office for 14 years.

The compassionate stance he took during the last half of the 1970s left a lasting mark on his home state.

City of Des Moines

Authorities in Polk County are emphasizing safety as people go about the work of cleaning up flood damaged property. Experienced out-of-town volunteers are moving into the Des Moines area to help with the job.

Much of the cleanup work to this point has been done by neighbors helping neighbors. Polk County Emergency Management Director A.J. Mumm describes the effort as “sometimes dangerous and somewhat technical.” That’s why he says, he’s turning over the more difficult tasks to outside experts.

Karen Wendt, special to IPR

Cleanup continues in Polk County following this weekend’s heavy rains that caused flash flooding. Authorities say they may never know how many homes were damaged by the rapidly rising water.

Lee Enterprises

Davenport-based Lee Enterprises is entering into an agreement to manage the newspaper and digital operations of Berkshire Hathaway.

The BH Media division of the company headed by Warren Buffett owns newspapers in 30 markets. Its holdings include the Council Bluffs Nonpareil and the Omaha World-Herald.

The president and CEO of Lee, Kevin Mowbray, says combining the two chains under one management roof leads to benefits.

flood rock valley
City of Rock Valley

Heavy rain continued to fall Monday morning on areas of northwest Iowa already soaked by storms over the weekend. In the far northwest corner of the state, an oil spill is complicating matters.

On Friday, 32 rail cars derailed in Lyon County and spilled an estimated 230,000 gallons of crude oil into the Little Rock River.

Rock Valley City Administrator Tom Van Maanen said his community, which is downstream from the oil spill, is concerned about the oil that escaped containment efforts.

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.

Annals of Iowa

The State Historical Society of Iowa is trying to get a better handle on Iowa’s place in the African-American civil rights movement. It’s setting out to locate properties that might help tell the story of this in-state struggle for equality.

Over the next two-and-a-half years, researchers will be looking for workplaces, churches, schools, neighborhoods, any public place where people were fighting for civil rights in Iowa during the 20th Century.

An architectural historian with the Historical Society, Paula Mohr, says it’s difficult to know how many such places exist.

Dallas County Conservation Board

Construction will begin any day now on the first phase of a project to connect two Central Iowa bike trails. Completion of it, however, may take a while.

The so-called connector project will fill in a nine-mile gap between the High Trestle Trail and the Raccoon River Valley Trail between Perry and Woodward in Dallas County. Fundraising for the $5 million effort is about halfway there. The executive director of the Dallas County Conservation Board, Mike Wallace, says when complete, a large network of trails touching six counties and more than 20 towns will be open to bike riders.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

The sheriff of Franklin County has died after a short illness.

Linn Larson was elected sheriff of the north Iowa county in November of 2015.

He was the police chief of Belmond when he was hired by Franklin County in 1990.

He eventually worked up to become chief deputy in 2008.

In February of 2017, he set off concerns within Franklin County’s large Latino population when he announced he would begin cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

Linn Larson died Tuesday. He was 59 years old.

Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

One of the latest Iowa listings on the National Register of Historic Places is the building that now houses the Center Point Depot Museum. It was once a main stop on the train line that ran between Cedar Rapids and Waterloo.

The Center Point Depot was built in 1914. It was one of eight such depots owned by the Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Northern Railroad, which operated an electric passenger and freight service known as the interurban. The secretary of the Center Point Historical Society, Sharron Hannen, says it was a mainstay of travel in eastern Iowa prior to World War Two.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

The drive to draw more young women into science, technology, engineering and math has been gaining momentum in recent years. There's a program in Des Moines that makes sure low-income girls are given a chance at the so-called STEM fields.

Many of the girls Nancy Mwirotsi works with are beginning at ground zero when it comes to computers.

“Most of them are pretty new in the country," she says. "We had to start with basic what is an e-mail address.”

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.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

An opera opening in New York City this week will feature some voices from Iowa. But not all of the chorus members involved are free to travel to see the production in person.

“Give yourself a little inhale," says director Mary Cohen, as she stands before her choir. "Open your mouth for the exhale. This time reflect on the message of the song. So the message of freedom, light, hope.”

Drake University

A former president of Drake University in Des Moines has died. Wilbur Miller played a significant role in shaping the Drake campus we see today.

Miller was a Des Moines native and attended Drake for two years in the early 1940s.

Much of his academic career was spent at the University of Denver, where he taught psychology and eventually became dean of faculty and acting chancellor.

He was named Drake’s ninth president in 1972 and stayed in the job for 13 years.

Iowa State University

A football coach who led the Iowa State Cyclones, the UNI Panthers and the Arena League’s Iowa Barnstormers has died.

Earle Bruce is generally regarded as the coach who revitalized the Cyclone football program in the mid-1970s. He recorded a 36-32 record at Iowa State between 1973-1978, which included three eight-win seasons in a row and two notable victories against rival Nebraska.

Drake University

An art professor at Drake University is a winner of the prestigious Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in the arts. He’s only the second Drake faculty member to receive the honor, and one of a few Iowans.     

Chicago-born printmaker Phillip Chen has been teaching at Drake since 1996. He is the only person currently living in Iowa on this year’s list of 173 Guggenheim Fellows. The recognition comes with an undisclosed financial reward, which Chen says he can use.

The woman who was the brainchild behind the popular Olympic-style Iowa Games has died.

Carol Droste was an administrative assistant to First Lady Chris Branstad in the 1980s when she noted the competitive games taking place in neighboring states, says the Chief Operating Officer for the Iowa Sports Foundation, Kevin Bourke.

“She was the one who had seen what was happening in the other states around Iowa – the Cornhusker State Games, the Prairie State Games in Illinois, the Show Me State Games in Missouri – and presented the idea to Governor Branstad,” Bourke says.

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.

Hoyt Sherman Place

Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines is adding to its art collection a piece from circa 1600 that it has owned for nearly a century without knowing it. Officials have discovered “Apollo and Venus” by Dutch master Otto Van Veen.

University of Northern Iowa

The University of Northern Iowa is hosting a forum tonight to emphasize the contributions made by refugees to the state’s economy. The organizers hope it will help clear up some misunderstandings.

The open forum will include a panel made up of a sociologist, legal expert, someone from the Iowa Department of Human Services, and advocates for refugees. One of its organizers is a professor of international economics at UNI, Shahina Amin. She says it’s designed to help remove some stereotypes.

This program originally aired 6-19-17.

Proposed budget cuts by the Trump administration have scientists at the Ames Laboratory on the campus of Iowa State University concerned. The smallest of the national laboratories receives 90 percent of its funding from the Department of Energy. The director of the Ames Lab, Adam Schwartz, says President Trump’s proposed budget would harm scientific research.

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.

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.

Grendelkhan / Wikimedia Commons

Proponents of solar energy in Iowa are worried about a proposal under study in both chambers of the legislature. They say it would deregulate the rate-making process for utility companies by allowing them to change rates for various classes of customers without receiving Iowa Utility Board approval. Former legislator Tyler Olson, now president of SiteGen Solar in Cedar Rapids, says that move would harm the state’s growing solar industry.

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.