May 29, 2015

Over $1 million in Iowa Lottery prizes went unclaimed in 2014

Powerball-ballA spokesperson for the Iowa Lottery says it’s unusual for large prizes to go unclaimed, but a lot of winning tickets for smaller prizes weren’t turned in last year.

Mary Neubauer says two Powerball tickets purchased in the state — one worth $10,000 and the other worth $20,000 — will expire next month. “We usually don’t see prizes at this level go unclaimed, but in fiscal year 2014, the total of prizes that went unclaimed in our lotto games added up to nearly $1.4 million,” Neubauer says.

The valuable Powerball tickets that remain unclaimed were purchased nearly a year ago at lottery retailers located on opposite sides of the state. The $10,000 winning ticket bought in Council Bluffs will expire at 4 p.m. on June 18, while the $20,000 winning ticket purchased in Waukon will expire at 4 p.m. on June 29.

If the owners of those tickets fail to turn them in by the deadlines, Neubauer says the prize money will eventually go to someone else. “Here in Iowa, the money from unclaimed prizes goes into the lottery’s prize pools for future games and promotions, so it will be given back to players in the form of prizes, just not those particular prizes that expired without being claimed,” Neubauer says.

More details on $42 million project in Muscatine released

3D Images (3)Developers of a $42 million project in Muscatine that’s getting financial help from the state say they’ll break ground in September. Officials with the hotel, to be built along the Mississippi River, provided more details about the project on Wednesday.

Andy MacLellan is the chief operating officer for the Merrill Hotel and Conference Center, which will include 114 rooms and suites. The six-story building will feature a ballroom and conference space on the top floor. “It’s 12,500-square-feet and a very flexible space,” MacLellan said. “One of the major features is a 1,250-square-foot terrace that overlooks the Mississippi River, so it’s wide enough that you can do events out there, receptions, sit-down dinners, that sort of thing.”

In March, the Iowa Economic Development Authority Board awarded the project with a $10 million tax rebate. It’s also being funded by a $21 million USDA loan.

Some other features of the project include a fitness space with a spa, an indoor pool, a “light fare” restaurant, and a connection to a former hotel that now houses condominiums, two restaurants and a bar.

For many years now, the city of Muscatine has been without a downtown hotel or meeting space. “Yet, most of the business in Muscatine emanates from downtown, from the major industries here, but it all leaves the city because there’s no place to house people,” MacLellan said. “This will obviously give the city the opportunity to not only host those major businesses, but lots of other venues.”

The hotel is named for the lead investor of the project, 91-year-old Stanley Merrill Howe, the former president and CEO of Hon Industries. The Merrill Hotel and Conference Center is slated to open in the summer of 2017. It’s expected to create around 50 full-time jobs, plus part-time jobs.

State unemployment drops below 4%

Workforce-DevelopmentA record number of Iowans were working last month, according to a new report from Iowa Workforce Development. IWD spokesman Ed Wallace says the state’s jobless rate in April dropped to 3.8-percent, down from 4-percent in March.

“This is the lowest Iowa unemployment rate in 7 years,” Wallace said. The total number of working Iowans increased to 1,647,700 in April. That’s 600 higher than March and 23,700 higher than one year ago.

“We’ve got more Iowans working today than we have ever,” Wallace said. The dip in Iowa’s unemployment rate in April occurred despite the loss of 1,700 jobs in nonfarm employment. “We had a number of nonfarm job losses, but they were offset by a number of job gains throughout all industry sectors,” Wallace said.

Prior to April, the last drop in nonfarm employment in Iowa occurred in September of 2014. The loss in nonfarm jobs last month was heavily influenced by losses in manufacturing and trade and transportation, according to Wallace. The manufacturing sector trimmed 3,200 jobs in April while trade and transportation shed 1,000 jobs.

“We see durable goods manufacturing leveling out a little bit, however, construction jobs have continued to advance well into the summer season,” Wallace said. The construction sector added 2,400 jobs in April due to strong hiring for highway and infrastructure projects. The IWD report shows 65,500 Iowans were unemployed in April. That’s down from 74,100 one year ago.

While Iowa’s unemployment rate stood at 3.8-percent in April, the national jobless rate dropped to 5.4-percent.


Powerball tickets with thousands in prizes about to expire

powerball-smallTwo valuable, but unclaimed Powerball tickets purchased in Iowa are about to expire. Iowa Lottery spokesperson Mary Neubauer says the tickets were bought on opposite sides of the state a little less than a year ago.

“The first ticket won a $10,000 prize back in the drawing on June 18, 2014. It was purchased at a Casey’s in Council Bluffs,” Neubauer says. “The other ticket won a $20,000 prize. It was purchased at Quillin’s Food Ranch in Waukon and it won a prize in the drawing on June 28, 2014.”

The ticket bought in Council Bluffs will expire at 4 p.m. on June 18, while the ticket purchased in Waukon will expire at 4 p.m. on June 29. The businesses where the tickets were purchased have put up signs reminding customers to check their old tickets.

“Somebody won these prizes and we want to see them claimed,” Neubauer says. “That’s why we work so hard to get the word out and hope that we can maybe reach that person at the last minute, jog their memory, and they’ll go home and find that winning ticket.” In fiscal year 2014, nearly $1.4 million in Iowa Lottery prizes went unclaimed.


ACT study finds half of college students change major in 2nd year

University of Iowa Herky grad statue.

University of Iowa Herky grad statue.

New research indicates half of second-year college students will change the major they chose in high school. The study comes from ACT, the Iowa City-based college entrance exam company. Maureen Schafer, with the University of Iowa’s Academic Advising Center, told KCRG-TV she’s not surprised.

“Entering college is a time of exploration,” Schafer said. “We don’t assume that students are fully through their development when they enter the university. We know that they are kind of midway through their development, so there’s a lot to be learned.” Changing majors can be part of the process of weeding out a student’s likes and dislikes, according to Schafer.

The ACT study suggests it could determine success in college. The research found, “students who choose a major that matches their interests are more likely than those who don’t to remain in that major to persist in college and complete their degree in a timely manner.” Schafer said students shouldn’t worry about losing time while changing majors. That’s because for at least the first year, they are required to enroll in general education courses that award credit for a variety of majors.

“This idea that changing your major at all will delay graduation is probably a misconception,” Schafer said. “We don’t view changing a major as a failure. In fact, it can be a failure to not change a major.” University of Iowa senior Alex Pircer has changed her major twice — most recently going from marketing to interdepartmental studies, with an emphasis on community service. “I realized that I wanted to help people,” Pircer told KCRG. “That’s a big part of who I am. The best way for me to do that, I thought, was to go into something that’s more along the lines of counseling and advocacy.”


Simpson coach, father of baseball star Casey Blake dies in accident

Joe Blake.

Joe Blake.

A longtime coach for the Simpson College baseball team was killed in a car crash Monday night. An Iowa State Patrol crash report indicates 65-year-old Joe Blake of Indianola lost control of his vehicle around a curve shortly after 8 p.m.

The car rolled and Blake, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was thrown from the car and died at the scene. Joe Blake, who was drafted by the New York Yankees and played in their minor league system in early 70s, was in his 30th season as the pitching coach for Simpson.

All four of Blake’s sons played professional baseball, including Casey, who retired as a Los Angeles Dodger in 2011. Ben Blake, also Joe’s son, is the head baseball coach at Simpson.


DOT tries to get a count of cars on the state roadways

dotThe Iowa Department of Transportation is launching an annual effort to determine how many cars, trucks, and other vehicles are using the state, county, and city roadways.

The DOT’s Mark Hansen says, this summer, most of the employees monitoring traffic will be stationed in an area north of Highway 30 and west of Interstate 35.

“We’ll have manual counters sitting at roadway intersections, counting and classifying vehicles, and looking at the turning movements, literally all across northwest Iowa,” Hansen says. Many employees will spend peak hours between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. at one location counting the morning, noon, and evening traffic.

“One thing we look at is the turning movements at a particular intersection. This is important, for instance, if there is a lot of traffic turning left — and if the city has a left turn lane there — we may need to extend that left turn lane so more cars fit in the cue or we double that left turn lane to double the capacity there,” Hansen says.

In addition to the manual count each summer, the DOT also employs automated traffic recording equipment statewide. “We do have roughly 180 automatic traffic recorders across the state that are counting traffic 24 hours a day, seven days a week for us, to help us establish trends in the traffic patterns,” Hansen says.

Another data collection method involves a van with two mounted cameras that collect 200 images per mile. This year, that van is covering the northern half of the state. Hansen says all of the data collected by the DOT helps the agency plan the future of Iowa’s roadway system.