THURSDAY, OCT. 22, 2020 | IN THIS ISSUE

Kirkwood awarded $350,000 for apprenticeship, training programs
• Iowa's overall weekly unemployment claims continue to decline
Alliant’s new solar garden in Marshalltown combines solar-battery
• Iowa colleges awarded $4.M to increase internet connectivity
ImOn announces free Wi-Fi in Iowa City's Chauncey Swan Park
• Corridor events, KCRG-TV9 headlines and First Alert Forecast
Kirkwood awarded $350,000 for workforce development
Kirkwood Community College has been awarded a total of $350,000 in two grants from Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) to support new apprenticeship and training programs aimed at addressing the negative economic impact of COVID-19. The programs will be targeted toward Iowans who have been adversely affected by the virus.

Of the two awards, the largest was the Coronavirus Relief Registered Apprenticeship Incentive Grant, for which the college received $250,000. The funds will be used to develop new registered apprenticeship programs (RAPs) with three local employers including Suburban Lumber Company for a Heavy Truck Driver RAP, Wendling Quarries Inc. for a Diesel Mechanic RAP, and Davis Heating for a HVAC Installer RAP.

According to Kirkwood Vice President of Continuing Education and Training Services Kim Becicka, the apprenticeship programs are a major benefit to employers, employees and even the community as a whole.

“Participants in these programs will be learning critical skills for in-demand careers in our area,” Ms. Becicka stated in a release. “They’ll learn these skills on the job while working for local employers and earning a paycheck. As they are completing the apprenticeship, they are contributing to the business and gaining the knowledge and skills to make a significant impact in an area of great need for our workforce. These programs are really a win for everyone in the region.”

The second grant from IWD is worth $100,000 for the Employer Innovation Fund. The money will be used to address emerging workforce needs that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. The project will provide guided academic and personal support to vulnerable populations such as veterans, low-skilled workers, women and minorities, among others.

Companies interested in more information about growing their workforce pipeline through on-the-job training can contact Becky Weininger at (319) 398-1057 or Becky.Weininger@kirkwood.edu.
Overall weekly unemployment claims continue to decline
The number of Iowans filing weekly unemployment claims with Iowa Workforce Development continues to decline, with 45,986 filing claims last week, a nearly 8% drop from the previous week, the Business Record reports. 

Additionally, the state agency reported that during the week that ended on Saturday:

  • 4,622 Iowans filed initial claims, a 10% increase from the 4,192 of first-time claims filed the previous week. Twenty percent, or 946, of the new claims were from people who worked in manufacturing; another 18%, or 819, were filed by independent contractors or those who are self-employed.
  • $11.8 million in jobless benefits was paid out of the state’s unemployment compensation trust fund. Since mid-March, Iowa has paid out more than $962.1 million in unemployment claims.
  • $2.4 million in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefits was paid. Those were retroactive payments, as the program ended July 25. Since April 4, a total of $1.61 billion in benefits has been paid from the fund.
  • $3.8 million in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits was paid. Since April 13, $132.4 million has been paid from the fund.
  • $7.8 million in Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits was paid. Since May 27, a total of $100.9 million in benefits have been paid from that fund.
  • $1.4 million was paid in State Extended Benefits. Since July 21, $12.6 million has been paid in extended benefits.

According to WalletHub.com, Iowa is among the 10 states that are experiencing the quickest recovery from COVID-19. Iowa ranked eighth in the weekly survey.
Alliant’s new solar garden combines solar-battery energy
More than 9,500 solar panels now generate clean energy at Alliant Energy’s new Marshalltown Solar Garden. This pilot project combines solar power and a battery to generate, store and deliver electricity to customers.  
 
The Marshalltown Solar Garden sits next to Alliant Energy’s Marshalltown Generating Station.
 
“This solar-battery combination allows us to provide our customers with solar power during the day and night,” Terry Kouba, president of Alliant Energy Iowa, stated in a release. “The solar field adds power to the grid when the sun is shining and then our battery allows our customers to continue using this renewable energy resource in the evening when the sun isn’t shining.”
 
The 2.55-MW AC solar system in Marshalltown can power nearly 400 homes. With full sun, the solar panels can also fully charge the 548kWh battery within two hours. When discharged, the battery can power nearly 200 homes for two hours. The solar garden became operational in mid-February and the battery was just put into service this week.
 
The company has three battery sites in Iowa, and each is being used to pilot different combinations of solar power and energy storage technology. The Marshalltown battery is the company’s first battery that’s directly connected to a utility-sized solar field. The battery in Wellman provides resiliency and reliability in a rural area with an abundance of customer-owned solar systems. Similarly, the battery in Decorah will be used as an “electron bank” to manage capacity on a circuit instead of rebuilding it.
 
In 2003, Alliant Energy built its first solar system in Iowa at the Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids. In 2015, the company added additional solar panels to increase Indian Creek’s capacity. Alliant Energy has two Dubuque solar gardens, which have been generating clean energy for customers since 2017.

IMAGE: Solar panels at Alliant Energy’s new Marshalltown Solar Garden. CREDIT: ALLIANT ENERGY
Colleges awarded $4.M to increase internet connectivity
The state of Iowa and the Iowa Department of Education today announced 43 Iowa colleges and universities have been awarded nearly $4.4 million to increase internet connectivity for students in the 2020-21 school year. 
 
The funding is part of the state’s $26.2 million in Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Funds, and is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The awards will help colleges and universities address barriers to online and remote learning opportunities for the 2020-21 school year and help ensure students have equitable access to technology needed to continue their education throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
“Expanding virtual education delivery methods and ensuring students have the technology needed to access them are some of the new challenges our higher education institutions are facing due to the pandemic,” Ann Lebo, director of the Iowa Department of Education, stated in a release. “These awards will enable colleges and universities to seek reimbursements for investments made to increase access, whether that be devices and software needed for virtual education or hotspots and other ways to increase internet access.” 
 
Each college and university submitted an application indicating how it would use the funds to increase connectivity for students. 
  
Allocations were based on the financial need of undergraduate students at each of the colleges and universities, as determined by the number of students who receive federal Pell grants. A list of recipients and allocation amounts is available on the Department of Education's website.
ImOn announces free Wi-Fi in Chauncey Swan Park
ImOn Communications has partnered with the city of Iowa City to launch free Wi-Fi service in an additional location - Chauncey Swan Park and the adjacent Chauncey Swan parking ramp. While initially developed for use at the Iowa City Farmers Market, the Wi-Fi network will be available year-round.

“Not only will this new Wi-Fi location provide another safe place for Iowa City residents to access the Internet during the current pandemic, it will also be a great addition to the park and the Farmers Market when we are able to gather there again safely,” Ashley Monroe, assistant city manager, stated in a release.
  
ImOn’s Wi-Fi is a commercial grade, state-of-the-art wireless network. Utilizing a series of access points connected to ImOn’s high-speed 10-gigabit fiber network, ImOn Wi-Fi service provides reliable coverage throughout the park and parking ramp.

ImOn and the city recently announced the launch of free Wi-Fi at Riverfront Crossings Park and plans to continue partnering to offer free community Wi-Fi in additional locations.
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Short Term Event Planner

Oct. 22 
Thriving Amidst A Pandemic: What Companies Are Doing To Beat The Odds in 2020, by NewBoCo, noon-1 p.m., online. Participants will learn what startups are thriving amidst the pandemic and which markets are growing. Cost: $10. To register, visit bit.ly/351qDfl.
 
Worth It, by UFG, noon, online. This distracted driving awareness presentation includes startling facts, eye-opening activities and a powerful overview of a heartbreaking encounter with a distracted driver. To join the virtual Worth It session, email worthit@unitedfiregroup.com with “October 22 presentation” in the subject line for access information.
 
Oct. 27
Facebook Advertising, by Center for Business Growth and Innovation at UNI, 10-11 a.m., online. This webinar will focus on building a brand using Facebook, Facebook advertising, blogging and Instagram. Free. To register, visit bit.ly/377DH5A.
 
Structural Testing and Analysis for Iowa Manufacturers, by Iowa State University CIRAS, 11 a.m.-noon, online. This webinar is designed to explain the tools available to help companies test and analyze at ISU. Free. To register, visit bit.ly/31wsesL.
 
Managing Remote Workers, by Healthier Workforce Center of the Midwest and University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, noon-1 p.m., online. This panel discussion will highlight the health and safety concerns of managing employees remotely. Free. To register, visit bit.ly/31aCff3.
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Headlines from KCRG-TV9
These news items are provided by KCRG-TV9 

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported 15 more COVID-19 related deaths and an additional 1,401 COVID-19 cases over the last 24 hours. As of 10:30 a.m. today, the state’s data is showing a total of 110,974 COVID-19 cases and 1,594 COVID-19-related deaths since the pandemic began. A total of 6,397 tests were reported to have been conducted over the last 24 hours, making the total number of tests conducted 918,078 since the pandemic began. The positivity rate over the last 24-hour reporting period was 21.9 percent. There are currently a total of 530 patients hospitalized with the virus, with 85 having been admitted in the last 24 hours. Of those patients, 135 are in the ICU and 53 are on ventilators.

An Iowa City man was arrested after physically attacking a 70-year-old Uber driver at around 1:17 a.m. Thursday. Officials said Reese John Phillips, 22, was getting a ride from the Uber driver when the two got into a verbal argument. A criminal complaint said Phillips stuck the driver, causing him to stop the car near South Clinton and East Burlington streets. The driver asked Phillips to leave the vehicle, but when he got out, he began to push and punch the driver. Phillips got back into the vehicle on the passenger side. When the driver tried to get Phillips out of the car, he fell to the ground. Officials said Phillips then punched the man several times while he was curled up on the ground. Phillips also reportedly stomped on the victim’s head. Officials said the 70-year-old victim had a small cut and a large contusion on his head from the assault. When officials arrived at the scene, they said Phillips smelled of alcohol, had bloodshot, watery eyes, had impaired balance and admitted to drinking. He faces charges of public intoxication and willful injury.

These news items are provided by KCRG-TV9
Your KCRG-TV9 First Alert Forecast
Highs will only be in the 50s over far northern sections with highs of 70+ over the south half of the area. This is going to set up some ingredients for strong to severe storms in our area later this afternoon into the evening hours. While wind and hail are the primary risks, this system is so wound up we can’t totally discount the potential for a tornado. After midnight, gusty northwest winds will kick in and last through Friday.