Business & Consumer News

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Trade tariffs on imported goods are impacting the bottom lines of many Iowa businesses, and may even drive some to change their ticket prices and the products they offer.

Fire At Will / Creative Commons

On this edition of River to River, listeners will learn how a pair of Iowa brick-and-mortar retailers have been adjusting to the rise of e-commerce. These retailers are looking to emphasize services that online shopping cannot provide, such as experiences, entertainment options and advice on products. 

Katie Peikes / IPR

A southwest Iowa restaurant damaged by last spring’s flooding is preparing to make a comeback.

Courtesy of UnityPoint Health

UnityPoint Health, one of the state's largest healthcare systems, has announced it is pursuing a merger with South Dakota-based Sanford Health. 

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An investigation by Iowa’s state auditor alleges a former employee of an Iowa City business group improperly spent nearly half a million dollars with a company credit card.

Katie Peikes / IPR

In the community of Hamburg in southwest Iowa, people continue returning to their homes and businesses to assess the damage from last month’s widespread flooding.


Kate Payne / IPR

A new restaurant will help keep a historic building open in one Iowa small town, after a well-loved bistro closed down earlier this year.

julian garrett
John Pemble/IPR

All Iowa businesses would be required to use the federal E-Verify program to check if their employees are legally eligible to work in the United States under a bill that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday. The state could suspend or revoke the business license of employers that knowingly hire undocumented immigrants.

Katie Peikes/IPR / IPR

Retail giant Shopko is closing about 250 stores across the country after filing for bankruptcy in January. Two dozen of those stores are in Iowa, and 22 are Shopko Hometown stores, smaller-format locations designed for smaller cities and towns. Rural Iowa communities fear the closures of these general merchandise stores are going to hit them hard. 

The craft beer craze has been sweeping the nation for quite a while now, and the odds are pretty good that there is a craft beer brewery or tap room near you. But what about a Kombucha tap room?

Kombucha is a type of fermented tea that is hundreds of years old, but has experienced a surge in popularity in the United States in the last few years. There’s only one Kombucha tap room in the state. You will probably not be surprised to learn that it’s in Iowa City.

Kate Payne / IPR

Leaders in several Johnson County communities are agreeing to collaborate on growing businesses in the region. Area mayors say they’ll work together to attract and retain companies, instead of competing for them outright. 

Iowa DOT map

One of Iowa’s 14 Sears stores will close in late March, as part of the company’s latest round of reductions announced Friday.  Sears Holdings says the store at the Southern Hills Mall in Sioux City is among 80 Sears and K-Mart stores throughout the country that will close, as the company fights to stay in business. 

The company has told its employees liquidation sales will begin in about two weeks. 

The Sioux City location includes an auto center, which will close in late January.

Samir Luther

The Trump administration wants to allow states to set their own emissions standards for coal-fueled power plants. The plan is a rollback of Obama-era pollution rules.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer gets reaction to the proposal from Iowa’s energy sector, and guests estimate how much the new rules will change the course of Iowa’s energy future, especially since Iowa is a national leader in wind energy.

Guests include: Dan Lutat of Iowa Lake Community College and Justin Foss of Alliant Energy.

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.

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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.

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.

protesters wells fargo
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Protesters targeted a Wells Fargo shareholder meeting in Des Moines Tuesday and listed several complaints against the bank that was recently hit with a $1 billion fine for loan abuses.

“We’re gonna beat back the bank attack,” chanted protesters standing in a hotel lobby below the shareholder meeting. They cheered when they learned the people in the meeting above could hear them.

Lori Young of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement—one of the groups that organized the protest—said Wells Fargo is too big.

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.

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.

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.

Artizone/Flickr

Iowa and 12 other states have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a California law that requires eggs sold in the Golden State to come from hens that have room to extend their limbs.

Missouri’s Attorney General filed a lawsuit this week on behalf of the 13 states, including Iowa, which is the largest egg-producing state in the country. It’s the latest challenge to the California regulations.

On this new buzz edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks about the lawsuit with Neil Hamilton, director of the Agricultural Law Center at Drake University.

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.

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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