WEDNESDAY, APRIL 29, 2020 | IN THIS ISSUE

Passenger numbers plummet at Eastern Iowa Airport
• Gannett newsroom cuts hit Press-Citizen, Register
• QCR profits down as COVID-19 slows loan growth
• In the CBJ: Commercial projects forge on
• Report: Iowa’s tax collections down $307.3 million
• Corridor events, KCRG-TV9 headlines and First Alert Forecast
Passenger numbers plummet at Eastern Iowa Airport
After three consecutive years of record-breaking passenger numbers, the Eastern Iowa Airport’s (CID) March passenger traffic was down 44.4 percent compared to the same month in 2019, showing the stark effects of diminished travel due to COVID-19.
 
March is traditionally one of CID’s busiest months with thousands of people traveling for spring break, but as restrictions were put into place to help combat the spread of COVID-19, passenger numbers plummeted.
 
The March numbers contrast to passenger counts from earlier this year; January traffic was up 20 percent and February was up 30 percent. Now, year-to-date passenger traffic is down 2.5 percent.
 
One area of activity at CID that has increased this year is cargo traffic. Over the past three years, CID has established a more significant presence in cargo, handling 50 percent of Iowa’s airfreight. In March, the amount of enplaned freight/cargo at CID increased 6.2 percent and year-to-date the increase is 23.4 percent over 2019.
 
Airport Director Marty Lenss said CID had a strong cargo operation with its three cargo carriers - DHL, FedEx and UPS - prior to COVID-19 and that has been a vital part of essential services during the pandemic
 
“Everything from medical supplies, toilet paper, bleach wipes and the new pair of shoes you ordered have to get here somehow, and much of that is part of the air cargo activity at CID,” Mr. Lenss said in a press release.

In September 2019, CID and officials from UPS held a groundbreaking ceremony announcing an agreement for UPS to lease a 40,000 square-foot facility at CID. Mr. Lenss said the $10.2 million project is moving ahead as scheduled. 

“We have been in contact with UPS and we are still on track,” he said. “Construction will begin this year and we anticipate the building will be completed in spring 2021.”
 
Construction is underway now in the long-term parking lot. “This project was already scheduled, and with few vehicles in the lot, it made sense to complete this now,” Mr. Lenss said.
 
Other construction projects that will begin this year include rehabilitation of runway 13/31 and the terminal circulation taxiway.
 
Mr. Lenss says both of those projects were part of the airport’s capital improvement plan and funding was already in place prior to COVID-19.
 
The airport recently learned it would receive $22.8 million as part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Mr. Lenss says the airport team is finalizing the plan on how to best use the funds to maximize CID’s position when air travel begins to recover.
 
“We are very appreciative of this grant money that will help CID with the loss of revenue we are experiencing,” he says. Mr. Lenss says they are looking at directing funds toward staff retention, cost-cutting measures and strategic investments that would save money for the airport and its partners.

IMAGE: The Eastern Iowa Airport entrance in southwest Cedar Rapids.

Find more daily Corridor business and community updates at the CBJ's  coronavirus updates page .
Gannett newsroom cuts hit Press-Citizen, Register
Newspaper giant Gannett’s latest round of layoffs has hit Iowa City, with the word that the Press-Citizen’s news operations will now be managed from Des Moines emerging through social media.
 
Former Press-Citizen News Director Tory Brecht, who joined the paper in September 2018, said in a Facebook message posted yesterday that he was one of “many deep editorial/newsroom cuts across Gannett’s family of newspapers this week.”
 
“Going forward, that means the P-C will be run out of Des Moines, by a to-be-determined Register editor,” he continued, adding that he was “saddened for the many smart readers in Iowa City who have endured seeing their paper shrink in both physical size and importance to the community.”
 
Also cut was the editor position at the Ames Tribune – formerly Michael Crumb, now with the Des Moines Business Record – and Des Moines Register columnist Daniel Finney, who tweeted “I stacked my final paragraphs as a storyteller for the Des Moines Register. My job was cut effective May 1 as part of corporate synergies.”
 
Writing on Twitter yesterday, P-C reporter Zachary Oren Smith confirmed the news, writing that, per Register Executive Editor Carol Hunter, there will be a full-time editor for the Press-Citizen and one for the Ames Tribune, both working out of Des Moines.
 
“The Register is already a large part of what’s in the P-C and how it’s made,” he wrote in a separate tweet . “It‘s unlikely many will notice this change on the website or in print. But I’ll point out that my concern—and maybe yours too—is what this means for our town and its local paper.”
 
The cuts will leave the Press-Citizen with four reporters and one photographer.
 
Requests for comment from Gannett and Des Moines Register Executive Editor Carol Hunter were not returned by this deadline.
 
Poynter.org reports that it’s unclear if the cuts are in response to the coronavirus or the company’s 2019 megamerger with GateHouse Media in 2019. That made Gannett the largest newspaper chain in the U.S., with more than 260 publications, including 11 in Iowa. Gannett executives told the New York Times last November that they would be looking for $300 million in efficiencies, but pledged that the bulk of those savings “would not come from editorial.”
QCR profits down as COVID-19 slows loan growth
The parent company of Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust reported lower earnings in the first quarter, as higher provisions for loan losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic and one-time charges related to the sale of two businesses weighed on results.

QCR Holdings reported earnings of 70 cents per share on net income of $15.9 million, down from 99 cents per share and net income of $15.9 million in the fourth quarter.

The COVID-19 crisis contributed to lower loan growth and a $7.4 million increase in provision for loan losses. CEO Larry Helling said overall credit quality remained strong and the QCR remained solidly profitable.

“I am proud of our first-quarter financial performance and our healthy underlying fundamentals,” Mr. Helling said in a news release. “We remain steadfast in our focus on expanding our presence in the communities we serve across all our charters and providing best in class service through operational excellence, and we believe that we are well positioned to deal with the challenges in front of us.”

While unable to predict the total impact of the pandemic, Mr. Helling said each of QCR’s banks “is well capitalized, and is dedicated to serving our clients as long as this crisis lasts.”

QCR banks responded to the crisis by offering borrowers a Loan Relief Program and participating in the SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). A total of 1,935 clients were added to the Loan Relief Program, with loans totaling $439 million. QCR banks received SBA approvals for 1,300 in PPP loans totaling $333 million.

The recent sale of Rockford Bank & Trust to Illinois Bank & Trust and the pending sale of its investments business, Bates Companies, factored heavily in both quarters. In the fourth quarter, QCR recorded a $12.3 million gain on the Rockford Bank & Trust sale, along with $3.3 million in disposition costs. It also recorded a $3 million impairment charge related to the pending sale of Bates Companies, and $1.9 million of post-acquisition compensation, transition and integration costs.

In the first quarter, QCR’s results included $517,000 in disposition costs for Rockford Bank & Trust, and a $500,000 goodwill impairment charge related to the sale of Bates Companies, along with $151,000 of compensation, transition and integration costs.

Illinois Bank & Trust is part of Dubuque-based Heartland Financial.
In the CBJ: Commercial projects forge on
Driving past the bustling Xtream Arena construction site in Coralville’s Iowa River Landing, it’s difficult to believe there’s a pandemic grinding vast sectors of the economy to a halt.

An average of 125 workers still report to work on the $50 million project each day, fanning out to install lighting and seating, lay carpet and landscape the outdoors, among other jobs still on the list before the 5,100-seat arena and fieldhouse can open to the public.

It looks like business as usual and, according to Randy Clarahan, market executive for Mortenson’s Iowa office, in many ways it is. But even as most commercial construction projects move forward amid the COVID-19 crisis, it is changing the way workers do their jobs, disrupting supply chains and injecting a sense of uncertainty about the health of the industry after the project backlogs are cleared.

“The impact COVID-19 has had for us so far are mainly labor and supply challenges,” said Mr. Clarahan, adding the Mortenson-led project is still on pace for a September opening, despite new procedures intended to keep workers safe and some minor supply issues, including delayed delivery of seat backs from a Michigan manufacturer that closed several weeks ago.

“We have been blessed and fortunate to have kept our job sites safe and clean … And I’m happy to say there hasn’t been a single positive [COVID-19] case on the job site, not just at Xtream Arena, but across our other project sites,” he added.

The nature of construction can mean teams work together in tight quarters, and unfinished spaces on job sites can make hand-washing less available than in office or retail environments.

Yet so far, there have been few outbreaks making headlines at Iowa construction sites.

Read the full members-only story in this week's print or digital editions of the CBJ.

IMAGE: Construction continues with more stringent health and safety measures at the Xtream Arena and the GreenState Family Fieldhouse in Coralville’s Iowa River Landing. CREDIT ADAM MOORE 
Report: Iowa’s tax collections down $307.3 million
Iowa has experienced a $307.3 million, or 48%, decline in net tax revenue collected between March 19 and April 24 when compared with the same period a year ago, a new report by the Legislative Services Agency shows.

The report, issued April 27, predicted that tax revenue consequences of the pandemic will likely become more severe in the coming weeks, the Business Record reports. However, the full impact the pandemic has had on tax collections won’t be fully known until July when delayed tax payments are deposited, the report said.

In mid-March, after Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered thousands of businesses to close in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, the state’s revenue department granted deadline extensions for several types of annual state tax returns and tax payments. 

Those orders have resulted in a reduction in tax collections, an unknown amount of which may not be recovered because of declines in consumer spending.

Overall, Iowa collected $332.4 million in tax revenue between March 19 and April 24, according to the report. In 2019, $639.7 million collected during the same period.

“Some portion of the revenue reduction experienced between mid-March and the end of July will be a real reduction in tax collections, while some portion will be the result of tax due date delays initiated by the state,” the report said. “It will not be until the delayed tax payments have been deposited that the economic impact of recent events can be reasonably estimated.”

For more of this story, visit businessrecord.com .
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Short Term Event Planner
 
April 29
Leading in Times of Turmoil , by Technology Association of Iowa, 1-2 p.m., online. Dave Tucker, senior advisor for Next Level Ventures and Workiva, will discuss his approach to career transitions and what to keep in mind when things go wrong. Free. To register, visit bit.ly/3cLnAdL .
 
State of the Community: Economy, by Iowa City Area Business Partnership, Iowa City Downtown District, Think Iowa City and ICAD Group, 2 p.m., online. Hear from local and state economic development leaders to learn more about the current state of our economy and thoughts on what recovery might entail. Recording will be available to those unable to watch live. Free. To register, visit bit.ly/3aHmRsF .
 
Coronavirus Updates Webcast , by RSM US LLP, 3 p.m., online. Learn more about the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and how to mitigate your company’s risk. Free. To register, visit rsm.us/39kOfvA .

Keeping Business Strong in Our Heartland , by ActionCOACH Heartland, 4 p.m., online. Learn how to seize new opportunities, adapt your business model, get clarity on critical decisions, customize your marketing and grow your customer base. Free. To register, visit bit.ly/2xgDaip

April 30
ICR Agile Conference , by NewBoCo and Eastern Iowa Agile, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. This one-day virtual event is designed to bring together members of the agile community and those interested in embracing the agile mindset. Conference includes 16 speakers and multiple breakout sessions. Attendees will be sent information to participate via their computer. Cost: $100. To register, visit bit.ly/3ae8Lzf .

Managing Risk: What Employers Need to Know as Employees Return to Work , by Holmes Murphy, 10:30-11:30 a.m., online. This webinar will address clinical considerations and safety protocols for keeping employees healthy, establishing a safe work environment and mitigating risk. Free. To register, visit bit.ly/3cTZEEY .

MEDCO Engagement Lounge , by Marion Economic Development Corp., 11:30 a.m., online. Get answers and find resources for your business-related questions and challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Free. To join the Zoom meeting, visit bit.ly/2XQIkfT

Corridor Rising 2.0 Business Support Series , by Corridor Business Journal, noon-1 p.m., online. Businesses are facing new and sudden financial challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This webinar will examine the HR and legal issues surrounding unemployment and furloughs, especially in the light of the Paycheck Protection Program. Watch live on Facebook or participate on Zoom. Free. To register, visit corridorbusiness.com/events

Six Steps to a Better Business , by SCORE of East Central Iowa, noon-1 p.m., online. Learn six steps to building a more profitable business. Free. To register, visit bit.ly/34VALWL .
 
Washington Business Hangout , by Washington Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Washington, 1:30 p.m., online. Washington Chamber members are invited to a Google Hangout to address ways to proactively promote community businesses. Hangouts will be held each Tuesday and Thursday. Free. To join, visit meet.google.com/fiu-sfok-daq or dial in to (219) 401-0636 (PIN 264113127#).
 
May 1 
COVID-19 Assistance Programs: Q&A with SBDC , by Marion Chamber of Commerce, 1:30-2:30 p.m., online. Scott Swenson, regional director with SBDC Iowa at Kirkwood Community College, will lead a conversation about available assistance programs, SBDC resources and the CARES Act. Free. To register, visit bit.ly/2KJPmLM .
Headlines from KCRG-TV9
These news items are provided by KCRG-TV9  
 
Flexsteel Industries, Inc. said it will be permanently closing its Dubuque manufacturing facility. The Dubuque-based company said it's exiting the recreational vehicle and hospitality businesses due to declining customer demand and changing market conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The facility temporarily closed in March due to drops in demand from the pandemic. The Dubuque facility employs about 200 people. "Over the days ahead, the company will be working with the workforce, customers, and suppliers to determine a feasible ramp down plan," a press release said. "While it is anticipated that both facilities could close as early as June, the date may fluctuate sooner or later based on business conditions." It's also closing a manufacturing facility in Starkville, Missouri, which employs about 170 people. The company said it will still be based out of Dubuque .

The Iowa Department of Public Health announced today 467 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 12 more deaths in Iowa. The deaths occurred in Black Hawk, Dubuque, Jasper, Linn, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Pottawattamie and Washington counties. The new cases bring the total to 6,843 in the state and 148 total deaths. In total 41,337 people have been tested and 2,428 of the confirmed cases have recovered. There are 323 patients hospitalized with the disease; 42 of them were admitted in the last 24 hours; 100 of them are in the ICU, and 74 are on ventilators. Click here to see complete information from the Iowa Department of Public Health. Gov. Kim Reynolds announced a new TestIowa site is opening today in Waterloo.

These news items are provided by KCRG-TV9
Your KCRG-TV9 First Alert Forecast
The wind is the big weather story for the day. It'll be blowing from the north to northwest at 20 to 30 mph, gusting up to 50 mph. We may also have a few light rain showers pass by today. Highs are cool today, staying in the 50s in most spots. Clouds hang on most of the day, but we'll see some clearing begin late. Thursday is another breezy one, although it won't be as bad as today. We'll have lots of sunshine, which will push highs well into the 60s. Friday also looks like a good day with highs again going far into the 60s. We might see a sprinkle or a little shower that day, mainly over northern Iowa. Saturday should be the nicer of the days this weekend with a partly cloudy sky and highs in the 70s. Sunday has a chance of showers and storms, and that is followed by cooler weather next week as highs should stay mainly in the 60s.