May 26, 2015

Bosses could do a better job of telling workers ‘good job’

One Hundred US Dollar Notes, close upA survey finds 90% of managers say their company does a fantastic job with employee recognition but only 30% of workers agree.

Mike Gremmer, spokesman for the Office Team staffing service in Omaha-Council Bluffs, says while many companies can’t afford big bonuses or raises, they can do a better job of showing appreciation.

“Simple thank you notes go a long way, public recognition in front of their peers, you can celebrate milestones like production figures and certain anniversaries, maybe take people to lunch,” Gremmer says. “You just have to get creative.”

While he’s not surprised by the results of the survey, Gremmer says employers need to make it a priority to create a good work environment.

“We have a thriving economy right now, there’s a labor shortage out there,” Gremmer says. “When you think about your own company and the work environment you want to create, when people are happy, they’re going to give you more performance which positively effects the bottom line of your organization.”

Nobody wants to have a miserable work environment and Gremmer says it’s okay for workers to call bosses out, if it’s done carefully.

“Workers should let it be known, in a professional way,” he says. “There’s nothing wrong to mention to your employers that you really appreciate a little positive feedback. You want to be sensitive to the business conditions and budget limitations the company may have but there’s nothing wrong with saying, ‘Thank you, that meant a lot to me.'”

Gremmer says it benefits the company to have a policy in place to show recognition and to be a place where people are happy to come to work.


Home Base Iowa program hits one year old

Home-baseIt was one year ago on Memorial Day that Governor Terry Branstad signed the “Home Base Iowa” bill into law. The law creates several benefits for veterans in an effort to get them to live in Iowa once they leave the military.

Casey’s General Stores CEO Bob Myers, and former Iowa Congressman Leonard Boswell are the cochairs of the Home Base Iowa effort. Myers says a lot has happened since the program got going.

“We do know that at this point the number of hires is over 1,300,” Myer says. He says in the year since the signing of the legislation, Iowa moved from a “veterans unfriendly state, to a veterans friendly state.”

Myers says his company has hired veterans through the program and they have worked out very well. He says he is a member of the Iowa Business Council and its 20 members have pledged to hire 2,500 veterans over the course of the next five years.

“So, many of those 1,300 hires are part of the Iowa Business Council partnership, so we should all be proud of the fact that we’ve hired that many veterans,” according to Myers.

Myers and Boswell are both Vietnam veterans. Boswell says they understand what it means to veterans to be able to get a job and contribute to society once they get out of the military. “The whole idea behind this Home Base Iowa was the fact that 250,000 or plus men and women are being pushed out of the service. They are there, they are volunteers. The preponderance of those have been there 10 or more years, they are not qualified to retire or do anything like that,” Boswell says.

He says the program takes advantage of the skills and training the soldiers got in the military. “They’ve got a lot of talent, they’ve got a experience, they are motivated, so we extended out this program to bring them to Iowa,” Boswell says.

Boswell says the effort is not done.”If it stopped today it would be a success story, but it’s not going to stop, it’s got momentum,” Boswell says.

Myer says the cut back in U.S. forces continues, and while that may turnaround sometime, he doesn’t see that happening in the immediate future. “We still have a need if you will, to employ veterans who are leaving the services until that changes,” Myers says. “And it may not change, and it won’t change for the next couple of years. That’s what I see going on right now.”

Some of the provisions of the law eliminate state income taxes on military pensions for soldiers and their surviving spouses. It also makes it easier for soldiers to earn academic credit for their military training and experience, if they decide to seek a degree at an Iowa college or university. In addition, state boards are required to take into account a soldier’s military skills when the soldier applies for a professional license.

Those interested in the program can find out more information at:

Up to $13 million in state incentives approved for Sioux City pork plant

The Iowa Economic Development Authority has approved state incentives for projects in six cities that officials say will lead to the creation of more than 1,300 new jobs.

The biggest project is in Sioux City. That’s where a new pork processing plant will be built. Officials say more than 1,100 will be employed there once the plant is up and running. The state is providing tax incentives for the project worth up to $13 million.

The other projects getting state awards today are in Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, Fort Dodge, Colfax, Urbandale and Des Moines.

ConAgra is getting a package of state tax incentives worth up to $3.9 million for expansion of its facility in Waterloo and Red Star Yeast is getting $25,000 from the state, plus state tax breaks for expanding its operations in Cedar Rapids.

State officials have also awarded a half million dollar state loan for a plant in Fort Dodge where prescription drugs for animals will be made. Beck’s Hybrids is getting $200,000 from the state, along with tax breaks, for construction of a sales and distribution center along Interstate 80, near Colfax. A company called BirdDogHR that has outgrown its headquarters in Urbandale and is getting a $215,000 state grant for relocating in the same suburb rather than move out-of-state.

Finally, the City of Des Moines is getting $36.5 million from the Iowa Reinvestment District Program. The money is to be used on development of the entertainment district in the capital city’s downtown. The centerpiece: a new convention hotel that would connect to the Iowa Events Center.

Drop in farm income raises concern at Fed Reserve Bank

A drop in commodity prices has hit farm income.

A drop in commodity prices has hit farm income.

Farm income is falling for many growers in Iowa and across the region as credit conditions weaken.

Nathan Kauffman, the Omaha branch executive with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, says lower crop prices and high input costs have cut profit margins and raised concerns about the ability of farmers to repay loans down the road.

“In the last several years, profits have been so good in agriculture that a lot of people have been making pretty good money,” Kauffman says. “Now, a lot of bankers and other lenders are looking at where the risks are, wanting to understand what level of working capital do their borrowers have, is it sufficient to get them through these times?”

Recent years have brought many producers across the Midwest severe droughts and flooding while commodity prices rebounded only slightly after dramatic drops, while facing higher costs for seed, fertilizer and chemicals. It’s left many farmers short on cash.

“Operating loans have picked up because of lower incomes,” Kauffman says. “There has been a need for more financing of some of those short-term expenditures and I think we’re seeing more lenders that just want to be cautious and recognizing things are still pretty good overall and they have been very good, but being cautious about what that means for the next year or so.”

Kauffman says cropland values edged down in the first quarter this year while pastureland values held firm. “The land that’s very high quality still does seem to be selling quite well,” Kauffman says. “The land that is maybe not quite as good, we do see some variation there. There are stories of no sales at auctions, we see other weaknesses in that side of the land market but overall, there has been a bit of downward pressure because of the lower incomes.” Profit margins in the livestock industry have remained stable, but he says most bankers don’t think farm income or credit conditions will improve in the next three months.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


Deere sees sales growth in construction & forestry division

Deere logoDeere and Company has raised its financial outlook for the year, as sales of its construction equipment are rising to offset some of the losses in its ag division.

There’s a global slowdown in the ag sector and sales of John Deere tractors, combines and other farm equipment fell by 25 percent in the second quarter. However, Deere makes backhoes, excavators and other equipment for the construction and forestry industries and those sales are up two percent. Deere also has a division that offers financing for the purchase of Deere equipment and that unit saw a 14 percent jump in revenue during the second quarter.

Overall, the company reported a 30 percent decline in second quarter earnings, but its CEO says Deere will be “solidly profitable” in 2015.

EntreFEST underway in Iowa City

entrefestOne of the largest business innovation conferences in the state is taking place this week in Iowa City. It’s called EntreFEST and hundreds of entrepreneurs and business owners are learning how to grow their organizations.

EntreFEST Executive Director Amanda West told KCRG-TV it’s a chance for entrepreneurs to get ideas from experts across multiple industries. “Iowa is a place where they can make their idea happen and really grow their companies here and find the success that they’re looking for in our state,” West said. said. This year, there’s a special focus on agriculture and new trends in the field. EntreFEST is an annual conference.

It began Wednesday and runs through tomorrow. It’s sponsored by the University of Iowa, Iowa State, and the University of Northern Iowa.


Top three credit reporting agencies agree to changes to help consumers

The top three credit reporting agencies have agreed to changes.

The top three credit reporting agencies have agreed to changes.

A spokesman for Iowa’s Attorney General says getting errors removed from your credit report is going to get easier under an agreement reached with the top three credit reporting agencies.

Spokesman Geoff Greenwood says 31 states are a part of the agreement to improve the accuracy of the reports. “For years we’ve been getting complaints about all of the credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax and Trans Union — so for the last couple of years, attorneys general have tried to address this problem,” Greenwood says.

Credit reports assign credit scores based on a variety of factors, including how well you pay your bills, how much money you’ve borrowed. Under this agreement the credit reporting agencies must implement an escalated process for handling complicated disputes, such as those involving identity theft, fraud, or cases where one consumer’s information is mixed with another’s.

“A credit report is really important, in some respects it’s a life story of your finances,” Greenwood says. “And others read those reports when they are thinking about extending you credit for a car, or a house, or maybe even hiring you.”

Greenwood says this agreement also addresses one particular area of concern — the payment of medical bills. “In some cases consumers were still working things our with their insurance company, didn’t get enough time and it ends up being a blemish on their credit report. This institute some changes that we think will reduce those types of reports on people’s credit reports,” Greenwood says.

The credit reporting agencies now cannot place medical debt on a credit report until 180 days after the account is reported to the credit reporting agency to gives consumers time to work out issues with their insurance companies.

Greenwood says you can get a free credit report from each of the three agencies by going to the website Then you can act to clear up any wrong information. “If you see an error, contact the credit reporting agency and let them know about the error,” Greenwood says. “As part of this agreement, they are going to make it easier for consumers.”

The agreement is sending $6 million  to the states, with $106,000 coming to Iowa for Iowa’s consumer education and litigation fund. Greenwood says credit reporting agencies will implement the changes in three phases to allow them to update their IT systems and procedures with data furnishers. All changes must be completed by three years and 90 days following the settlement’s effective date.