MONDAY, MARCH 22, 2021 | IN THIS ISSUE

• IEDA OK's funding for established companies, startups
• Businesswomen announce candidacy for Cedar Rapids mayor
Iowa allocates $15 million to broadband programs
Coffey to succeed Burke as Travero president April 1
Iowa Leading Indicators Index rises slightly in January
• Corridor events, KCRG-TV9 headlines and First Alert Forecast
IEDA OK's funding for established companies, startups
The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) board has approved awards for seven established companies, including projects in Iowa City, Cascade, Burlington, Johnston, Nevada, Rock Valley and West Des Moines. The projects will help create 179 jobs and result in almost $105 million in new capital investment for the state, according to an IEDA news release.

The board also approved innovation funding for startups in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Carroll.

Rantizo, an Iowa City-based agtech company that uses drones to deliver ag inputs in-field precisely when and where they’re needed, was awarded $485,000 in capital investment project tax benefits through the High Quality Jobs (HQJ) program. The award is expected to create six jobs at a qualifying wage of $27.05. The platform integrates with field imagery data to prescribe and precisely deliver liquid and dry solutions using targeted drone-based agricultural spraying. Rantizo is the only company approved for drone-based agricultural spraying in multiple states and recently became the first company approved for nationwide swarming for spraying. The company plans to expand their size with a new location that will provide space for additional testing and research and development.

Centro, based in North Liberty, was awarded HQJ tax benefits for a capital investment of just over $2.5 million. A plastic custom rotational molder that spans three countries and 10locations, Centro makes products for OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), which are used in agriculture, construction, and lawn and garden industries. The company plans to acquire a building in Cascade, a new and fourth location in Iowa. The project It is expected to create 24 jobs, of which 16 are incented at a qualifying wage of $19.41.

Other awards went First Capitol Baking Co., which plans to purchase a building in Burlington, purchase new equipment and a solar roof to minimize its carbon footprint; Underground Magnetics, which will be constructing office and warehouse space in Johnston; VERBIO in Nevada, which plans to purchase equipment to integrate ethanol production alongside the renewable gas production in its existing facility; Ironwood 53, a agricultural equipment company which will expand its operations in Rock Valley; and Innovative Injection Technologies, which will expand its capacity in West Des Moines.

In IEDA startup awards, Deetz, a tech startup based in Cedar Rapids, was awarded a $100,000 Demonstration Fund loan for market planning/entry activities, key personnel and equipment. Deetz’s interface shows people what is happening around town in real time, featuring an interactive map where users can discover daily specials, events, sales, pick-up games and more.

Iowa City-based FBB Biomed, a biotech company that develops intellectual property (IP) to measure and control ribonucleic acid (RNA) associated with disease severity, was awarded a $25,000 Proof of Commercial Relevance (POCR) loan to expand its IP portfolio. The company licenses its IP to life sciences companies for use in diagnostics and therapeutics development.
Businesswomen announce candidacy for CR mayor
Two female business leaders have announced their candidacy to challenge Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart in the upcoming November election. 

Tiffany O’Donnell, CEO of Women Lead Change and former KGAN television news anchor, and Amara Andrews, a leader at TrueNorth Companies in Cedar Rapids, are both planning official announcement events this week.   

In the six years Ms. O’Donnell has been at the helm of Women Lead Change, the organization has nearly tripled in its size. Prior to that, she was an Emmy Award winning reporter and anchor in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines, most recently as the main anchor at CBS2/Fox 28. She has also been an active community leader as a founding board member for the NewBo City Market and Kids’ First Law Center among other non-profit organizations. She is currently on the steering committee for ConnectCR. 

Ms. O’Donnell is hosting a live launch announcement via her Facebook page, Tiffany O’Donnell For Mayor, at 2 p.m. Tuesday. For more information, visit tiffany4mayor.com.

Ms. Andrews is the head of business development and communications for the transportation division at TrueNorth Companies. She has served on the board of the Boys & Girls Club of Cedar Rapids and is currently president of the board for The Academy for Scholastic and Personal Success. She also serves as vice president of the board of the Advocates for Social Justice, a group formed following George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police. 

If elected, Ms. Andrews would become the first African American to hold the mayor’s position in Cedar Rapids.

She plans to make her official announcement 5 p.m. Thursday at an outdoor event at NewBo City Market, 1100 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids. For more information, visit amara4cr.com/.

PHOTOS: Tiffany O'Donnell (top), Amara Andrews (bottom).
Iowa allocates $15 million to broadband programs
Today, the state of Iowa has awarded 14 broadband providers with $15,542,302 in Empower Rural Iowa broadband grants made possible through Gov. Kim Reynolds’ allocation of federal CARES funding. These grants will impact 21 Iowa counties and more than 2,800 homes, schools and businesses.  

“The COVID-19 pandemic only underscored the need for fast, reliable, and accessible broadband,” Gov. Reynolds stated in a press release. “This investment goes directly to projects that are in significant broadband deserts. While today’s allocation will help improve broadband in more communities, we can do better. Iowa must have universal broadband access to compete and succeed in the 21st century, which is why I'm working with the legislature for significant funding over the next three years that will ensure access for all Iowans by 2025.”   

This latest grant round shows the demand for broadband grants in Iowa. More than 42 providers applied with applications valued at more than $41 million. That is nearly a three-to-one ratio of funds requested to funds available. 

The $15 million is the remainder of the $50 million in CARES funding Gov. Reynolds designated for broadband grants from a previous round of funding. The full list of providers awarded grants can be found here.
Coffey to succeed Burke as Travero president April 1
Travero, the Cedar Rapids-based logistics solutions subsidiary of Alliant Energy and parent company of CRANDIC Rail, has announced a transition in executive leadership.
 
As part of the transition, Kevin Burke is retiring as president of Travero on April 1 after 40 years with the company, and Lisha Coffey is becoming the president of Travero after most recently serving as the company’s chief operating officer. 
 
“Travero will continue to drive business growth by providing innovative solutions for our customers,” Ms. Coffey said in a news release. “With our dedicated employees, Travero will focus on our customers and the communities we serve by providing a one-stop shop for customized supply chain solutions.”
 
“I’m proud of the accomplishments of our teams over the past 40 years, and I’m grateful to have worked with so many great employees who tirelessly work to serve customers,” Mr. Burke added. “I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family, and I’m excited about the future of the company. Lisha’s proven leadership energizes others, delivers positive results and positions her to lead Travero to further success.”
 
Last year’s transformation of the brand from Alliant Energy Transportation to Travero unified the company’s growing portfolio of innovative and custom logistics services and solutions under a single identity.
 
Travero’s increasing suite of capabilities currently includes rail freight services with CRANDIC Rail, freight brokerage and third-party logistics services through Travero Logistics, and a barge terminal and bulk material handling facility along the Mississippi River at Logistics Park Dubuque. Later in 2021, Travero plans to open Logistics Park Cedar Rapids, the region’s largest rail-served warehouse and transloading facility, near The Eastern Iowa Airport.
 
Mr. Burke began his career at the company in 1981 as a clerk for the CRANDIC Railway. He served as superintendent at CRANDIC and chief operating officer before becoming president in 2007.
 
Ms. Coffey joined Alliant Energy in 2002 as a communications program manager and soon moved into director roles in compliance, sales and economic development. She then served as regional director of operations before being named chief operating officer of Alliant Energy Transportation in 2014. Coffey graduated from Murray State University and received an MBA from Mount Mercy University.

IMAGE: Lisha Coffey CREDIT TRAVERO
Iowa Leading Indicators Index rises slightly in January
The Iowa Leading Indicators Index increased to 104.7 in January from 104.3 in December. With six of the eight components contributing positively, the monthly diffusion index remained unchanged at 75. This is the sixth month in a row the monthly diffusion index has registered at or above 50, the Business Record reports.

The Iowa Leading Indicators Index was constructed to signal economic turning points with two key metrics that when seen together are considered a signal of a coming contradiction: a six-month annualized change in the index below minus 2%, and a six-month diffusion index below 50. The report suggests that employment growth will improve over the next three to six months.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the Iowa unemployment rate, a coincident indicator, decreased to 3.5% in January from a revised 3.7% in December 2020; one year ago, the state’s jobless rate was 2.8%, the ILII reported. The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 6.3% in January 2021 from 6.7% in December.

The 12-month moving average of weekly unemployment insurance claims increased to 10,618 in January from 10,424 in November; average monthly claims were up 68.9% from January 2020, and 45.7% above the monthly historical average from 1988 to 2020. The 6,179 average weekly unemployment claims for January 2021 was 84.9% lower than the 40,835 average weekly unemployment claims in March 2020.

For more information, visit businessrecord.com.
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Short Term Event Planner

March 23
Hiawatha Business Summit, by Hiawatha Economic Development Corp., the City of Hiawatha and the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, 8 a.m., online. During Connecting to and Upskilling Your Workforce, learn how employers are utilizing and developing current employees in creative ways. Free. To register, visit bit.ly/3t1wHz2

Future Focused Forum on Physical Health, by Marion Economic Development Corp., 8:30-9:30 a.m., online. Learn how local employers have helped their employees be more active and join local experts for a few tips to balance the new workplace, nutrition and physical fitness. Free. To register, visit bit.ly/3pONuDx.

PPP Update and Forgiveness, by CLA, 8:30 a.m., online. Understand the PPP loan process and application options, determine PPP forgiveness calculations and understand the documentation needed for the forgiveness application. Free. To register, visit bit.ly/3ewaYuS.

March 24
1 Million Cups, by 1MC Cedar Rapids, 8:30 a.m., online. Join for community connections and presentations by entrepreneurs, established companies, experts and more. Free. For more information, visit facebook.com/1MCICR.

1 Million Cups, by 1MC Iowa City, 9 a.m., online. Join for community connections and
presentations by entrepreneurs, established companies, experts and more. Free. For more information, visit facebook.com/1MillionCupsIC.
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Headlines from KCRG-TV9
These news items are provided by KCRG-TV9 

The state’s COVID-19 vaccine administration dashboard this morning shows a total of 495,618 people are now fully vaccinated for COVID-19. A total of 1,278,654 vaccine doses have been administered in Iowa as of 10:30 a.m. The Department of Public Health today reported one more COVID-19 related deaths and 143 more cases of the virus in Iowa. As of 10:30 a.m. the state is reporting a total of 345,817 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 5,675 people have died with the virus since the pandemic began.

An annual tornado drill is set for around 11 a.m. Wednesday. It’s part of Severe Weather Awareness Week. The sirens in Cedar Rapids, Marion, Hiawatha, Robins, Palo and Center Point will not be activated for the drill, but schools, businesses, individuals and state and local governments are encouraged to participate. Sirens owned by local jurisdictions are at the discretion of those jurisdictions. A test tornado warning for the drill will be sent over weather radios.

These news items are provided by KCRG-TV9
Your KCRG-TV9 First Alert Forecast
Expect mostly cloudy skies through the day, scattered showers will be moving in from the south and could impact our central and southern zones during the first half of the day. Impacts look minimal but keep the rain gear handy throughout the day.