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News Analysis: November 19, 2007

posted on November 19, 2007 at 6:01 PM

Closer to the edge of the news, we have David Pitt of the “Associated Press” here to provide some insight. David, what's making headlines these days?

Pitt: Thank you, Amy. Well, we have several things this week and the past week that have been happening in Iowa. Recently the department of economic development awarded a number of grants to businesses in the state, a sign of business expansion, a sign that the economic development projects are underway in Iowa, and some of them might be kind of surprising to people.

We've heard about some of the larger ones; Rockwell Collins, for instance, in Cedar Rapids, is expanding, and about 300 jobs will be added there. Monsanto Company is also increasing its presence in the state. And Google is a newcomer to Iowa coming to the western side in the Council Bluffs area, so some incentives were offered there as well. And Wellmark is building a new corporate headquarters in downtown Des Moines, so there's some money awarded for Wellmark.

But a couple of smaller projects are interesting as well. There's one in Fairfield, a Sky factory that makes the ceiling tiles, colorful ceiling tiles, so it's a new kind of a company that's an upstart in Iowa. And a food company in Britt adding 48 jobs was given some money as well, and it’s a food ingredient company.

So it just shows the diversity, I guess, in Iowa of the manufacturing and the industry here, the fact that the state's economic development incentive projects -- programs are bringing projects to the state and creating jobs.

Johnson Boyle: Obviously proof positive. What about Rockwell's expansion in Cedar Rapids in the eastern Iowa area? Do you think that the war is helping to drive that, any defense contracts?

Pitt: Well, sure. Rockwell is a defense contractor, but it's also a company that provides significant equipment for commercial aircraft and for private jets. So that -- really all aspects of its business have been growing, but it has received a number of contracts for commercial airliners lately. So it provides some of the enhanced equipment for communications and radar equipment for those planes. So it's not just defense contracts that are keeping the company moving forward, but it is growing rather significantly.

Johnson Boyle: That's some great economic news for our state. Some not so great news is what's coming out of Iowa City and the University of Iowa with regard to three athletes there, correct?

Pitt: Right. There are three football players that have been investigated recently for sexual assault that allegedly occurred; early in October is when the incident occurred. It wasn't reported for a number of days after that.

I think the concern now on the part of Michael Gartner, who is the President of the Iowa Board of Regents, the oversight agency for the state-run universities, is he wants to make sure I think that the investigation on the part of the university is going properly, that people were notified soon enough, and that the whole process has occurred in respect to the university’s policies and procedures. He just wants to make sure things are on track and that it wasn't made worse by an inappropriate response by the university.

Johnson Boyle: I know that there have actually been a number of these incidents that have taken place at the University of Iowa, and that has to be causing great concern.

Pitt: I think it is and I think that's something that obviously they'll be looking at as well: You know, is recruiting an issue there or is it simply just keeping an eye on the activities of the players.

Johnson Boyle: Last but not least, we have to talk about the presidential campaigns that are heating up as the holidays approach. I have a feeling that candidates will be camped in our back yards.

Pitt: That seems to be the case. It looks as if a number of the campaigns have told their staff that they will be there through the thanksgiving holiday certainly, and some now apparently will be here through the Christmas holiday.

The caucuses are early in January, and it's a tightening race among Democrats, certainly. And also, a number of Republicans seem to be willing to campaign here much more than perhaps was expected early on, so definitely we're going to see a lot of candidates, a lot of campaign stops, and they'll be coming to a place near you, I'm sure, throughout the holidays.

Johnson Boyle: I'm sure they will. It's a wonderful opportunity for Iowans to get out and perhaps meet the future president, so we want to encourage everyone to do that.

Pitt: Sure.

Tags: Iowa news