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  • BY JOE GARDYASZ
    Tuesday, March 24, 2020 1:33 PM
    Big Green Umbrella Media Inc., the Johnston-based publisher of Cityview and Iowa Living magazines, announced to its advertisers today that those publications will “go dark” and suspend publishing for the next six weeks. 

  • BY BUSINESS RECORD STAFF
    Tuesday, March 24, 2020 12:00 PM

  • Monday, March 23, 2020 4:15 PM
    Iowa Public Radio has lost one of its own. Over a six-decade career, Dean Borg was one of the state’s most highly regarded journalists.

  • BY SUZANNA de BACA
    Friday, March 20, 2020 6:00 AM
    At Business Publications Corp., our vision is to be a strong and growing company supporting a strong and growing community, and during these tumultuous times, the community element of that vision is more critical than ever.

  • BY CHRIS CONETZKEY
    Thursday, March 19, 2020 2:11 PM
    A number of businesses are of course wrestling with the best ways to help employees who are struggling with child care.

  • Tuesday, March 17, 2020 4:30 PM
    Junior Achievement of Central Iowa’s 13th Annual JA Stock Market Challenge raised $79,000 during its recent event. 

  • BY KATHY A. BOLTEN
    Monday, March 16, 2020 4:39 PM
    Concern is mounting over whether Iowa’s more than 6,000 restaurants and bars will be able to successfully weather dramatic declines in revenue due to customers staying home to slow the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.

    “The profit margins in the restaurant industry are small – 5% net profit in good times,” said Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association. “We’re very worried about the potential catastrophic effect on independent restaurant owners that have less ability to absorb these declines in traffic and business.

    “We’re very worried that this will cause permanent closures.” 

    Today, the White House encouraged U.S. residents to avoid social gatherings of 10 or more people. It also encouraged people to avoid eating and drinking at bars, restaurants and food courts. Instead, the White House recommended that people who want restaurant or bar food use drive-thru, pickup or delivery options. 

    Several states have taken additional steps by mandating the closure of restaurants and bars or by limiting restaurant sales to takeout only.

    On Sunday, the governors of Ohio and Illinois ordered bars and restaurants closed. Today, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey governors said movie theaters, fitness centers and casinos were being shut down temporarily and bars and restaurants could only offer takeout. Massachusetts is banning gatherings of more than 25 people and beginning Tuesday through April 17, allowing only takeout at restaurants. Washington and Michigan have similar restrictions and California is strongly recommending the temporary closures. 

    And while Iowa officials haven’t mandated that establishments be closed, some owners are taking the step anyway. 

    Smash Park, the popular West Des Moines “eatertainment” venue is closing its doors to the public for four weeks. Prairie Meadows Casino, Racetrack and Hotel is closing indefinitely at 5 p.m. today.

    Other restaurants are taking creative approaches to helping slow the spread of COVID-19 while still providing services to the public and generating revenue. 

    Exile Brewing Co. announced on its website that beginning Tuesday it would only offer to-go orders or curbside pickup. No dine-in service would be allowed. Gusto Pizza Co., for the first time in its nine-year history, is offering 14-inch frozen pizzas to go.

    West Hill Brewing Co., which opened in November in Indianola, on Tuesday will offer curbside growler service.

    “We wanted to take some preemptive precautions,” owner Doug Gaumer said. “We value the people in our community and if we can remove one place that people congregate, it might help slow the thing.”

    West Hill has six part-time employees, only one of which will continue to work. “Most of the shifts have been canceled,” he said. 

    Gaumer said he’s worried about how his workers will fare financially. He’s also concerned about his business in general. 

    “The inventory will last three to five months,” he said. “Losing customers and possibly our employees, those are our concerns right now.” 

    The restaurant association is encouraging members to offer takeout, curb service and delivery, Dunker said.

    Fifty-one percent of the money spent on food is spent in the restaurant industry, she said. “If we close down altogether -- which right now does not sound like we’re going to do -- are we really ready on our own food supply to find new places for the 51% of the dollar?

    “If restaurants are able to continue to do carry out and delivery, people need to pick up the phone and place pickup orders.” 

    The restaurant business employs about 155,000 Iowa workers, a large portion of which are part time and hourly. “If we close places and start sending people into the unemployment lines at massive levels, it will be detrimental,” Dunker said. 

    She said there are several unknowns for restaurant owners, including whether business disruption insurance will cover pandemics. The insurance typically covers instances when power goes out or damage is caused by severe weather, but a rapidly spreading virus is new territory, she said.

    In addition, many independent restaurant owners want to know if – and when -- they will receive any financial help from the federal government. Last week, President Donald Trump said small business “disaster” loans would be made available. 

    However, the loans aren’t yet available in Iowa, said Jayne Armstrong, district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Iowa office. 

    “Each governor has to make a request for a disaster declaration that comes through to the SBA,” Armstrong said. “That is what we’re waiting on right now. I know the governor and her staff are collecting the data to show the economic impact.” 

    Armstrong suggested restaurant owners and other small business owners reach out to their county emergency management teams with information about how the crisis is affecting their businesses. She also suggested owners keep records of canceled events, declines in revenue and other data on how their businesses are economically impacted by the crisis.

    “They need to keep track over everything to show the economic impact this has had on them,” she said. “Until we have that data and get everything finalized, we’re in a holding pattern.”

  • BY JOE GARDYASZ
    Monday, March 16, 2020 4:35 PM
    The Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines today announced it has activated a new Disaster Recovery Fund that will be used to support communities that are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 emergency. 

    The DRF was created in partnership with disaster response and philanthropic organizations in Greater Des Moines to develop a collective strategy for charitable giving during times of disaster. The Community Foundation’s board has committed an immediate $100,000 to the fund, which has been matched by $100,000 from United Way of Central Iowa. 

    “As our community and its most vulnerable populations are facing the effects of COVID-19, the DRF provides an opportunity for the public to give with the reassurance their donations will be used to quickly move resources to where they are most needed and to adapt to evolving needs,” said Kristi Knous, the Community Foundation’s president. “The flexibility of the fund will ensure that the community will be able to respond to needs that are not being met by existing nonprofit, local, state and federal programs.” 

    Having United Way involved will provide valuable insight from the organization’s 211 assistance program to help determine what some of the most critical needs are within the community, she said. 

    The collaborative community effort has already received initial support from the Businessolver Foundation, Cultivating Compassion: The Dr. Richard Deming Foundation Fund, Mid-Iowa Health Foundation and the Polk County Board of Supervisors. 

    Within hours of the announcement, the fund had already reached approximately $325,000, which included a $50,000 donation made immediately following the livestreamed announcement, Knous said. 

    The DRF was created in recent months as a critical component of the community’s collaborative Disaster Recovery Plan that emerged following severe flooding in 2018. The DRF Coordination Team consists of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, United Way of Central Iowa, Polk County Emergency Management Agency, American Red Cross-Central Iowa Chapter, IMPACT, Polk County, and Community Family and Youth Services-Polk County. 


    The group engaged in conversation with nonprofit organizations, emergency management agencies and other services providers through a series of meetings in late 2019 to lay the groundwork for creating a flexible fund to address unforeseen challenges during times of disaster.

    Money received will first focus on disproportionately affected communities by addressing economic needs and the health impact on vulnerable populations caused by COVID-19-related closures and other impacts of the outbreak. The long-term application of the fund will focus on additional needs that are not being met by existing nonprofit, local, state and federal programs that will inevitably arise, according to the Community Foundation. 

    “We may not know what tomorrow will bring, but thanks to support of the DRF we have the confidence that we stand ready to meet the challenge,” Knous said. “Our community has proven time and time again that we are better together and this collaborative spirit will once again prevail as we support our neighbors in need.”

    For more information and to donate online, visit the Disaster Recovery Fund webpage. For general questions, inquiries about the DRF, or information about partnering, please contact Angie Dethlefs-Trettin, chief community impact officer, at trettin@desmoinesfoundation.org or 515-244-0340. 

  • Monday, March 16, 2020 11:26 AM
    Volunteer Iowa has announced five new inductees to the Iowa Volunteer Hall of Fame, and is seeking public input on which inductee should receive this year’s People’s Choice Award. 

  • BY EMILY BARSKE
    Friday, March 13, 2020 11:30 AM
    Now that I have your attention. … New York Times writer Aaron Orendorff writes that “Long emails and dense, difficult to decipher memos mean modern office communication goes ignored more often than it’s understood.”

  • BY JOE GARDYASZ
    Friday, March 13, 2020 11:25 AM
    Barbara Stinson, who joined the World Food Prize as its new president in January, said that in response to the coronavirus pandemic, her organization has canceled all travel for its staff for the remainder of March  Its Youth Institutes are for the most part being rescheduled or reprogrammed, but are not being canceled, she said

  • BY EMILY BARSKE
    Friday, March 13, 2020 11:24 AM
    A global plan is needed for employment of people with disabilities, French activist Dr. Jean-Baptiste Richardier told the Business Record during a visit to Des Moines to speak at the Sussman Lecture hosted by the Harkin Institute at Drake University. 

  • BY EMILY BARSKE
    Friday, March 13, 2020 6:00 AM
    The Des Moines Downtown Chamber of Commerce named Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert as the citizen of the year at its annual celebration in February. The chamber has been focusing on connecting its members with city officials and first responders. 

  • BY EMILY BARSKE
    Friday, March 13, 2020 6:00 AM
    On a recent tour through R&R Realty Group’s office, I had to stop and ask Vice President Brittany Freund why there was a gong sitting on one of the counters. Now, I’m still new to the Des Moines business community, but I’ve yet to see any gongs in other offices I’ve been to so far. 

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