November 1, 2014

Supreme Court rules in Waverly lease case

Iowa Supreme Court building.

Iowa Supreme Court building.

The Iowa Supreme Court has overturned lower court ruling that put restrictions on a landlord’s ability to show a building to prospective buyers. Alta Vista properties wished to sell a building in Waverly that included Doctor Richard Mauer of Mauer Vision Center as a tenant.

Mauer refused to let Alta Vista show the building to prospective buyers, citing a provision of the lease that only allows “For Rent” and “For Sale” signs on the property in the last 90 days of the lease. He said that provision also prevented the landlord from showing the property until that 90-day period.

The district court and Iowa Court of Appeals ruled in Mauer’s favor. The Iowa Supreme Court says the restriction only allowing signs in the last 90 days of the lease protects Mauer’s business from having people randomly showing up to try and look at the building. But the court ruled it is not a broad ban on Alta Vista’s ability to show the building at other times.

The court says such a restriction would place an undue burden on the company’s ability to sell its property. It overturned the lower court rulings.

Full ruling:  Lease dispute PDF


Fertilizer company decides to build in Illinois over Iowa

Cronus-Chemicals-logoIowa is no longer in the running to land a $1.4 billion fertilizer plant. Tina Hoffman is spokesperson for the Iowa Economic Development Authority. “Just within the last couple of days, we were officially notified that the company had selected a location outside of the state,” Hoffman says. Officials with Cronus Chemicals have chosen Tuscola, Illinois as the site for the plant.

The company had also been considering a site in northern Iowa’s Mitchell County. “For the last few months, we really haven’t been competing for the project,” Hoffman said. “It really just didn’t seem like the best fit for Iowa, so it wasn’t necessarily a surprise.”

Cronus had initially looked at dozens of potential sites in nine states, but narrowed the decision down to Illinois or Iowa. The Tuscola location is roughly two-and-a-half hours south of the company’s headquarters in Chicago.

Iowa already has two massive fertilizer projects in the works. Egypt-based Orascom is behind a $1.8 billion Iowa Fertilizer Company plant under construction in southeast Iowa’s Lee County. CF Industries, located near Sioux City, is building a $1.7 billion expansion to its fertilizer plant.


Iowa restaurant owner’s fight against the IRS gains national attention

Carole Hinders in front of her restaurant.

Carole Hinders in front of her restaurant.

A restaurant owner in northwest Iowa has landed in the national news spotlight over her fight with the federal government. Carole Hinders has operated Mrs. Lady’s Mexican Food in Arnolds Park for 38 years.

On May 22nd of last year, she says her life was turned upside down. “I got a knock on the door and it was two IRS agents who informed me they had closed my business bank account and seized all my money, which was almost $33,000,” Hinders said. The restaurant only accepts cash, which means Hinders makes frequent trips to the bank to avoid having large sums of money in the business.

Larry Salzman is with Institute for Justice, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm that’s helping Hinders with her case.

“Federal law requires banks to report cash deposits greater than $10,000. The federal government used civil forfeiture to seize Carole’s bank account, claiming by making small deposits, she was evading that requirement,” Salzman said.

The Institute for Justice produced a video telling Hinders’ story. “It’s been a year from Hell,” Hinders said in the video. “I decided to fight this fight because I didn’t do anything wrong. They took my money and I don’t think they should have the right to do that.”

The law firm reports federal law enforcement agencies — using civil forfeiture — can take cash, cars and other property without charging the property owner with a crime. The 67-year-old Hinders said she received no warning from either her bank or the government before her money was taken.

Since then, she’s borrowed money and used credit cards to pay bills and keep her restaurant in business. The New York Times recently featured a story about Hinders’ plight on its front page. The Institute for Justice analyzed civil forfeiture, or “structuring,” data from the I.R.S., and determined the feds made 639 seizures in 2012, up from 114 in 2005.

Only one in five was prosecuted as a criminal structuring case.


Photo courtesy of Institute for Justice


Sporty three-wheeler to be made exclusively in NW Iowa, adding jobs

Picture courtesy of Polaris

Picture courtesy of Polaris

The factory in northwest Iowa’s Great Lakes region that produces the popular Indian and Victory lines of motorcycles is now making a new three-wheeled machine called the Slingshot.

Chris Doucet, Slingshot’s commercial director at Polaris headquarters in Minneapolis, says the futuristic-looking roadster has two front wheels and one in the back, with an open two-seat cockpit, giving it a sleek appearance.

“You sit in the vehicle, not on the vehicle, compared to motorcycles,” Doucet says. “What most people tend to love about this vehicle is the side-by-side seating so you’re talking, you’re engaged with your partner all the way through the ride. It isn’t front and back like your standard motorcycle where you talk at various stops, you’re engaged with your partner the whole way through the ride.”

Production of the Slingshot is already underway at the 23-acre factory in Spirit Lake. Another Polaris plant is in nearby Milford and combined, they have more than one-thousand employees.

Doucet says, “Over the last six months, the ramp-up has led to 300 incremental jobs, some of those directly related to Slingshot, some directly related to the supporting features that go to having us increase businesses down there, welding and painting and those types of things.”

While the Polaris factory produces about 60 of the Indian and Victory motorcycles per day, Doucet wouldn’t elaborate on production numbers for the Slingshot.

“We do know how many we’re going to be making, that is proprietary information, but I will tell you we are all in on this investment,” Doucet says. “We’re very excited about it. Since the launch, since we’ve shown it to our dealers, the response has been overwhelming. Consumer demand, dealer response, can’t wait to get it, you’re not building enough of them.”

Two models will be offered, ranging from around $20,000 to $24,000. The vehicles should begin arriving in dealerships nationwide later this month.


State and local officials celebrate renovated beef plant in Tama

Jeffrey Johnson, CEO of Iowa Premium Beef and Governor Terry Branstad.

Jeffrey Johnson, CEO of Iowa Premium Beef and Governor Terry Branstad.

State and local officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday for the Iowa Premium Beef newly renovated Tama beef processing facility. Tama Mayor Dan Zimmerman says the plant will process Black Angus beef.

“The opening of Iowa Premium Beef represents the beginning of a dynamic economic growth period for the Tama community and the state of Iowa,” Zimmerman says.

The company spent $48 million to renovate the plant. “Iowa Premium Beef is all the more special because it represents the future growth with a foundation in Iowa’s agricultural heritage,” Zimmerman says. “This facility will impact the workforce here in Tama in a big way. In just a matter of a few days, it will put 600 employees to work at wages well above the minimum wage.”

He says the plant also has room for future expansion. “This facility has the potential to add over 300 additional workers — when operating at maximum production levels — for a total of over a thousand jobs. Jobs that we need here in Tama,” according to Zimmerman.

The mayor says the impact of the plant will go beyond the city. “At peak production this facility will have the capacity to process 2,000 head of cattle each day. Needless to say, this will provide a shot of adrenaline to our state’s cattle market,” Zimmerman says. Iowa Premium Beef says the vast majority of the cattle processed at the plan will come from within 150 miles of Tama.

(Reporting by Chuck Shockley, KFJB, Marshalltown/ Photo courtesy of Iowa Premium Beef)



Vehicle airbag recall causes flood of calls to auto dealers

A lot of auto dealerships across the state are fielding calls from concerned car owners. That’s after federal officials have increased a recall to a total of 7.8 million vehicles equipped with Takata brand airbags. Dave Wright, of Dave Wright Auto in Cedar Rapids, told KCRG-TV that his receptionists are keeping busy on the phone.

“We’ve experienced several calls each day from customers with questions about how to handle the recall,” Wright said. The recall involves cars of many makes and models, manufactured from 2000 to 2008. Three million additional vehicles are being recall than previously announced. Safety experts said the airbag can explode, shooting shrapnel into the faces of the people in the car.

Now, dealerships are watching and waiting for updates, especially with the growth of that list of cars involved. “Nissan acknowledged it a year ago and have repaired or at least had the campaign so customers had the opportunity to come in as much as a year ago and have their airbags replaced,” Wright said.

Auto companies send out a letters to everyone impacted with instructions on what to do. If your car is on that list of recalls, it’s also important to remember that it does not typically include every single car made during that time frame. “If you provide your (vehicle identification number), we’ll run it, and we will be able to tell you if you are in there and if you need the part replaced,” Wright said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the airbags are more of an urgent issue in places of high humidity and temperatures. So, it is especially urging people in warm-weather states to see that the problem is fixed quickly.

By Jill Kasperie, KCRG-TV


State unemployment rate up to 4.6% in September

Workforce-DevelopmentThe Iowa Workforce Development agency is reporting the state’s unemployment rate rose to 4.6 percent in September from 4.5 percent in August. IWD spokesperson Kerry Koonce isn’t surprised. “You’re seeing transition between summer and fall employment, so we’ll frequently see a little bit of bump this time of year,” Koonce says.

The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 5.9 percent in September compared to 6.1 percent in August. The number of unemployed Iowans increased to 77,900 in September from 76,500 in August. There are roughly 3,000 more unemployed Iowans compared to a year ago.

Koonce says there was also an increase in the total number of working Iowans. “It jumped from 1,626,400 (in August) up to 1,629,700 (in September),” Koonce says. “That’s 33,000 higher than it was this time last year, so that’s still very strong improvement for the economy.”

Iowa’s construction sector added 1,600 jobs in September, following an “unexpected” loss of 1,200 jobs in August. Construction has added jobs in five of the last six months. Education and health services also added 1,300 jobs last month. “We did see some losses in trade and transportation (-1,000 jobs), with most of that in the transportation area,” Koonce says. “We also saw losses in leisure and hospitality (-1,600), which does tend to trend down this time of year.”

Employment in Iowa’s construction, health care, and finance sectors are at or near record levels, according to Koonce. Manufacturing trimmed 100 jobs last month, marking the fourth straight month that sector has cut employment in Iowa. “We saw large growth (in manufacturing) last year, so that’s just kind of leveling off,” Koonce says. Compared to one year ago, there are around 400 fewer jobs in Iowa’s manufacturing sector.