September 2, 2014

Festival of Iowa Beers this Sunday in Amana

MillstreamThe 10th Annual Festival of Iowa Beers is scheduled for this weekend at the Millstream Brewery in Amana. Millstream owner Teresa Albert says Iowa’s beer business is booming.

“We have over 52 licensed breweries now,” Albert says, “and we’ve got 27 of them coming to the Festival of Iowa Beers Sunday.”

There will be 100 different craft beers available for sampling in Amana on Sunday afternoon. Albert isn’t worried about hosting her Iowa craft beer competitors in her backyard.

“It’s about the education. We’re educating people about the craft beer,” Albert says. “The more people we can get converted to craft beer, the bigger my business is going to be.”

The Millstream Brewery opened 29 years ago this weekend.

“We’re top 10-15 oldest operational microbrewery in the United States,” Albert says. “Prohibition shut down a lot of them in different states and they never reopened and then the craze for the nation really didn’t happen until the early ’90s and we opened in ’85, so we were about five or six or seven years before the microbrew craze hit.”

There are now more than 4500 licensed breweries in the United States and experts say craft beer sales have recently been growing by up to 15 percent a year. The entry fee for Sunday’s Festival of Iowa Beers is $20.

“You’re going to be able to try some really unique beer. Some of them make a special beer for this festival and you might not get it on the shelves,” Albert says. “…I would say three-fourths of the tables are being poured by the actual brewers of the beer and you can’t get that anywhere else. The home brewers go nuts. They get to talk to the brewers, you know, pick their brains, taste their beers.”

The following Iowa breweries will be setting up booths for tasting: Millstream Brewing of Amana, Old Main Brewery of Ames, Court Avenue Brewery of Des Moines, Raccoon River Brewery of Des Moines, Third Base Brewery of Cedar Rapids, Lost Duck Brewery of Fort Madison, Granite City Brewery of Clive/Davenport/Cedar Rapids, Raccoon River of Des Moines, New American Brewery of Ankeny, Firetrucker Brewery of Ankeny, Broad Street Brewery of Reinbeck, Exile Brewery of Des Moines, Twisted Vine Brewery of St. Charles, Madhouse Brewery of Des Moines, CIB Brewery of Macedonia, Keg Creek Brewery of Glenwood, Kalona Brewery of Kalona, Worth Brewery of Northwood, Peace Tree Brewery of Knoxville, Backpocket Brewery of Coralville, Confluence Brewery of Des Moines, 515 Brewery of Clive, Lion Bridge Brewery of Cedar Rapids, Okoboji Brewery of Okoboji, Great River Brewery of Davenport, Mason City Brewery of Mason City, Single Speed Brewery of Cedar Falls, Olde Main Brewery of Ames and West O Brewery of West Okoboji.

Ten years ago, the first Festival of Iowa Beers featured just eight breweries.

Attorney General sues Fort Dodge cosmetology college

The Iowa Attorney General’s office is suing the Fort Dodge-based La James International College on consumer fraud charges, alleging deceptive and unfair practices. The lawsuit was filed in Polk County District Court and stated that many of the students experiences is that it’s a school with extraordinary turnover on instructors, resulting in classrooms with no instructors, inconsistent instruction, lack of access to practice their skills and an institution that treats the instructors more like free labor than students.

La James operates cosmetology and massage schools and salons in Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Fort Dodge, Iowa City and Johnston. The company is privately owned by Cynthia Becher. The lawsuit seeks a court order banning the defendants from misleading and concealing material information from students, unspecified reimbursement to students and unspecified penalties and costs.

There has been no comment by La James officials on the lawsuit filed Thursday.

(Reporting by Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)


Settlement reached to allow Tyson to purchase Hillshire Brands

Tyson Foods has agreed to some conditions to allow it to proceed with its $8.5 billion acquisition of the Hillshire Brands Company. Geoff Greenwood, a spokesman for Iowa’s Attorney General, says the conditions are part of a settlement proposed by the Justice Department and three states that filed suit to block the acquisition.

“The agreement that we have proposed allows Tyson to proceed with the acquisition of Hillshire — but (Tyson) has to sell off Heinold Hog Markets, which operates a couple of facilities here in Iowa and also operates facilities in six other states across the midwest,” Greenwood explains.

Heinold buys sows from farmers, sorts the livestock at buying stations, and resells and trucks the sows to sausage processors, including Hillshire. Hillshire buys sows directly from farmers, which it then processes into sausage sold under the Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farm brands. “Our concern was that one company would have too much of a role in the sale of sows, and that could affect prices for hog farmers,” Greenwood says. He says Tyson would have at least a third of the sow market through this acquisition.

Greenwood says the settlement needs final approval before things move ahead. “A federal judge has to take a look at it, and we hope the judge will sign off on that,” Greenwood says. “Assuming the judge does sign off on it, that clears the way for the sale of Heinold Hog Markets, and it clears the way for the consolidation of the companies.

Tyson Foods is a Delaware corporation and one of the world’s largest meat companies with its principal place of business in Springdale, Arkansas. The Hillshire Brands Company is a Maryland corporation with its principal place of business in Chicago, Illinois. Hillshire is a manufacturer and marketer of brand name food products for the retail and food service markets, including sausage, hot dogs, and lunch meats. Its brand names include Jimmy Dean, Ball Park and Hillshire Farm.


U.S. Chamber of Commerce ‘all in’ for GOP’s Joni Ernst for U.S. Senate (AUDIO)

Rob Engstrom of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with Joni Ernst.

Rob Engstrom of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with Joni Ernst.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has endorsed Republican Joni Ernst in Iowa’s U.S. Senate race. Rob Engstrom, the group’s national political director, said today they’re “all in” for Ernst because her opponent is “actively hostile” toward businesses.

“In any senate race across the country, the choice couldn’t be more clear where you have somebody in Congressman Bruce Braley who is a personal injury lawyer. He’s made a career suing businesses,” Engstrom said. “…He is the face of the problem in Washington, D.C.”

Engstrom spoke during an event at an Indianola hardware store, praising Ernst as an advocate of the free enterprise system, but directing most of his remarks at Braley.

“Whether it’s chasing chickens around his neighbor’s yard and threatening lawsuits, whether it’s pretending to be a farmer, there’s not enough duct tape in aisle three to fix Mr. Braley’s failed record in Washington, D.C.,” Engstrom said, as Ernst laughed.

The U.S. Chambers of Commerce spent over $35 million supporting Republican candidates in 2012 and the group this year has already spent more than half a million on behalf of just one incumbent Republican senator from Mississippi. Ernst will now benefit from U.S. Chambers of Commerce campaign ads run on her behalf in Iowa.

“I do truly hope to have the opportunity to fight the good fight for good, solid, pro-growth economic policies for Iowans — both employees and employers — in the United States Senate,” Ernst said at the event inside McCoy Hardware.

AUDIO of U.S. Chamber of Commerce event in Indianola, 16:00

Braley, her opponent, told reporters an hour later that Ernst will find the endorsement from the U.S. Chambers of Commerce to be a “liability.”

“They are strongly opposed to increasing the minimum wage, which would give 300,000 a pay raise — 20 percent of the workforce,” Braley said after a campaign stop in Des Moines. “And the fact that they’re another organization that is financed by the Koch brothers should be no surprise to Iowans as to why they chose to endorse my opponent.”

The Koch brothers are billionaires who are expected to spend $300 million this election cycle to back conservative candidates and causes.

Third-generation to take over leadership of Vermeer in Pella

Jason Andringa

Jason Andringa

The family who owns the Pella-based company that makes heavy equipment for farm and industrial uses has announced its “family succession plans.”

Gary Vermeer founded Vermeer Corporation in 1948 and the company now sells its products in 66 countries. His daughter, Mary Vermeer Andringa, is the company’s president and CEO and she recently served as president of the National Association of Manufacturers.

Her son, Jason Andringa, will become Vermeer’s president and chief operating officer on November 1st, then a year later he’ll become both president and chief executive of the company. His mother will become chairman of the board and his uncle, who is also a former CEO of the company, will become chairman emeritus.

Jason Andringa is a mechanical engineer who earned a masters from MIT and an MBA from the

Mary Andringa

Mary Andringa

University of Southern California. He worked in NASA’s jet propulsion lab before joining the family business in 2005.

Vermeer employs more than 3000 people in seven manufacturing facilities in Pella and satellite plants in South Dakota and China. The company’s products are used for underground construction, surface mining and tree care as well as farming.

Photos courtesy of Vermeer.

Hatch unveils ‘Community First’ economic development approach

Democrat Jack Hatch says if he’s elected governor, he’ll “realign” the Iowa Economic Development Authority advisory board, splitting it into four regions, along the lines of Iowa’s four congressional districts. Each region would get an equal amount of money from the state and the local boards would decide which projects quality for state grants and loans.

“As a state, we find our best ideas come when we allow our communities to determine their own destiny and not rely on a top-down model in which government picks winners and losers,” Hatch says.

Hatch would forbid any of the members of these advisory boards to be involved in a business that gets a grant or loan from the state.

“It’s now like an ‘old boys club’….You have to know somebody in Des Moines,” Hatch says. “That just leads to abuse and loss of opportunities.”

Hatch says the regional boards he envisions would likely dedicate more state resources to smaller businesses rather than the big corporations Republican Governor Terry Branstad has been courting. Branstad reconfigured the Iowa Department of Economic Development shortly after returning as governor in 2011, establishing a public-private partnership instead of a strictly state-run agency.

Hatch unveiled his “Community First” proposal for regional advisory boards during a speech in Davenport on Monday.

Unemployment tax for Iowa businesses reduced (AUDIO)

Teresa Wahlert of Iowa Workforce Development talks during Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynold's weekly news conference.

Teresa Wahlert of Iowa Workforce Development talks during Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynold’s weekly news conference.

For the fourth consecutive year state officials are reducing the tax rates businesses pay into the government-managed fund used to pay unemployment benefits to Iowans. Teresa Wahlert is director of Iowa Workforce Development, the state agency that handled unemployment checks.

“In January of 2011, the Unemployment Trust Fund level was at $446 million,” she says. “Today, and the reason we’ve been able to have this great announcement today, is today that Unemployment Tax Fund is now $1.1 billion.”

The unemployment tax rates now set for Iowa businesses are the lowest they’ve been in 12 years.

“This is clearly providing business an incentive to keep their business here, to grow their business here,” Wahlert says, “and to relocate here, when they’re asked.”

The tax rates vary and are based on the lay-off track record of a business.

The Senate Oversight Committee will convene to quiz Wahlert over her management of the agency. Due to a computer malfunction in March, Iowa Workforce Development sent unemployment checks to 85 people who didn’t seek another round of benefits. Wahlert says it’s just a cost of doing business.

IWD director Teresa Wahlert.

IWD director Teresa Wahlert.

“Nobody is going to be penalized because it would cost us way more to collect the small number — it was only about $27,000 — and on a scale of a fund that has $1.1 billion in it, it’s really quit a small number,” Wahlert says. “And so we don’t want to penalize Iowans and we don’t want to spend our time going after that amount of money when we know what happened.”

Democratic senators have quesitons about an internal office memo which directed the department’s staff to stay quiet about the glitch.

“Staffers were told to do their job,” Wahlert says, “and so a lot of times people especially with an agency that is as large as ours spend time talking and visiting about things and we want our people to work on their important assignments.”

Governor Terry Branstad says his Workforce Development director has his “full support” as she prepared to appear before the legislative committee.

“I think Teresa with her background in business and with the Des Moines Partnership has a perfect background for this job and I think she’s done a really good job,” Branstad says. “…I feel confident that she’ll be able to answer all the questions and accusations that are thrown at her.”

This past spring Democrats in the Senate accused Wahlert of trying to tilt unemployment cases in favor of businesses by firing the chief judge in charge of the administrative law judges who handle the cases and putting herself in charge.

Branstad and Wahlert made their comments this morning during the governor’s weekly statehouse news conference.

AUDIO of news conference