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Study looks at long term impact of Wal-mart on small towns


May 14th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

A new study by Iowa State University economists shows small towns in Iowa that saw a Wal-Mart move in had moderate increases in sales 15-years later. Economist Ken Stone, became an expert on the study of the impact of the retail giant before retiring from I-S-U in 2004. He co-authored the new study and says Wal-Mart came into many of the towns 25-years ago as they were seeing population and sales declines.  “Even though towns that got a Wal-Mart store get an initial surge in sales, they start going down, and earlier we found that sometimes the go down more than what they were when (Wal-Mart) first came in. We attributed that to too many Wal-Mart stores too close together,” he explains. “What we concluded after this study was — that’s still true — but it was a lot better than if they had continued on the trend line they had been on before.” Stone says they also found the small towns that didn’t get a Wal-Mart to move in, didn’t see everyone leave to shop elsewhere.

“Even though they were at a little lower level, they sort of stabilized. And I attribute that to what I call the capitalism at work. We had companies like Hy-Vee and Fareway locate in those towns and we had Alco and Dollar Generals and so on,” Stone says. He says he has always gone by the premise that people don’t want to leave town to shop, and the smaller stores that filled the gaps in the non-Wal-Mart communities took advantage of that idea. Stone says the research shows the small stores in the Wal-Mart communities that tried to go head to head with the big retailer in areas like sporting goods and pharmaceuticals, did not survive. But he says those who adapted and offered something different have been able to make it.

“And it could be more upscale merchandise or specialty categories. Even hardware stores, if they’re handling more fasteners and tools and things (and provide) better service than what Wal-mart has, they’re doing okay,” according to Stone. “So there’s pluses and minuses others benefit from the additional traffic that Wal-Mart brings in if they are selling something different.” Stone says he can’t take all the information and make one general statement on the impact of Wal-mart on small towns.”So if a town has local option sales taxes for example…then they’re going to benefit from the additional sales. So that’s a plus. On the negative side, there’s a lot of environmental impacts. Many of these super centers take 20 or 30 acres and that’s can create drainage problems, and parking problems, and traffic problems and all kinds of things. So, it’s really hard to say yes or no it just depends on the local situation,” Stone says.

The study looked at 28 Wal-Mart host towns and 22 non-Wal-Mart control towns with populations between three and 30-thousand people. Stone says he doesn’t know of a study that’s taken such a long look at the impact of Wal-Mart. Stone, who is now a professor emeritus, co-authored the study with assistant economics professor Georgeanne Artz for publication in a future issue of Economic Development Quarterly.

(Dar Danielson/Radio Iowa)

Share the Road, It’s Bike to Work Week in Iowa

Ag/Outdoor, News, Sports

May 14th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Iowa motorists will notice more two-wheelers on the road this morning as part of Bike to Work Week. Whether it’s for exercise, to save money or to live a greener lifestyle, Iowa Bicycle Coalition executive director Mark Wyatt says plenty of people are turning to pedal power, and not just for a week. He encourages Iowans to give biking to work a spin.  “A lot of times your commute is much shorter than you can even imagine and it’s pretty comparable by car,” Wyatt says. “It’s easy. If you really want to start, give it a try it on a weekend and get out there and see how long your commute’s going to be and help with your timing and such.” Common complaints are that people don’t want to be all sweaty when they get to work, or that their hair will be messed up from wearing a bike helmet.

“You can take your clothes to work,” Wyatt says. “Hair products are portable so it’s really easy to set up there at work, towel off and change clothes before you go on about your day.” One study found that biking to work instead of driving a car can save six-to-seven-thousand dollars a year. While the winter months pose a challenge in Iowa, Wyatt says there’s no valid excuse to not try biking to work this spring — and this week. “We have 1,600 miles of trails available for people to use and countless number of bike lanes that are starting to pop up in urban areas,” Wyatt says. “As far as bike friendliness, we’re ranked #6 so there’s plenty of opportunities you can get out and bike on facilities designated for bicycles.” In the ten years since his organization started promoting Bike to Work Week in Iowa, Wyatt says the number of participants has grown from a few hundred to several thousand statewide. He says it’s easy to get involved and before you get on the road, you can start online.

“Go to www.bikeiowa.com or www.iowagoesbybicycle.com,” Wyatt says. “We have a national bicycle challenge that we’re participating in so users can log their miles and keep track of how long it takes to get to work and how much fun you’re having along the way.” There are a host of rides, races and other bike-related events over the coming weeks as part of National Bike Month.

Double Murder Investigation in NE IA, 17-year old sought for questioning


May 14th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Authorities in northeastern Iowa area searching for a teenager in connection with the discovery of two bodies found Sunday afternoon at a home in Manchester, At around 2:20-pm, Sunday, the Manchester Police Department responded to a 911 call from 109 Deann Drive in Manchester.  Upon arrival at the scene officers found two deceased individuals in the residence.

17-year old Isaiah Sweet, wanted for questioning in murder case

Law enforcement is seeking a person of interest in this case and are asking for the public’s assistance in locating 17 year old Isaiah Sweet.  The youth lived in the house with the two adults, who were not immediately identified. Authorities describe the case as a double murder. Police Chief Bruce Trapp says police responded to the house previously after receiving requests for assistance. Officials are not releasing the relationship between the youth and the couple, whose bodies were found when family members arrived for a Mother’s Day gathering. 

If anyone has information regarding the whereabouts of Sweet they’re being asked to contact the Manchester Police Department at (563) 927-3355. The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation is providing assistance in the investigation.  Also assisting is the Iowa State Patrol and Delaware County Sheriff’s Office. No additional details are being released at this time due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.

Iowa early News Headlines: Mon., May 14th 2012


May 14th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press

MANCHESTER (AP) — Two dead bodies have been found inside a house in northeast Iowa. State and local authorities were called Sunday to a home on the north side of Manchester. Police said two bodies were found inside and that the house is being treated as a crime scene. Law enforcement is seeking a person of interest in this case and are asking for the public’s assistance in locating 17 year old Isaiah Sweet. No additional details are being released at this time due to the ongoing nature of the investigation

DES MOINES (AP) — A Des Moines woman is suspected of setting fire to her mother-in-law’s house after an altercation. A fire department spokesman says that 32-year-old Lesley Duckworth set the basement of the house alight around 11 p.m. Saturday. She’s being held in the Polk County jail.

IOWA CITY (AP) — Two Iowa City men face charges in a pair of assaults against a woman at a University of Iowa dorm. The Johnson County sheriff’s office told KGAN-TV that 19-year-olds Hayes Obinna-Ozoh and Kenneth Clayton are suspected of assault and false imprisonment. Both men were being held yesterday in the Johnson County jail.

CEDAR RAPIDS (AP) — Authorities are investigating how a 3-year-old girl was left to wander alone near a Cedar Rapids school. KGAN-TV reports the girl was found at Taylor Elementary about 6:30 p.m. Saturday and officers spent hours knocking on doors in the area, trying to find her family. Police say the girl’s family was located about 2 a.m. yesterday but they didn’t know she was missing.

LA PORTE CITY (AP) — Recent lottery winner Wally Markham isn’t just a member of his local country club — he owns it. The 65-year-old Markham won the Iowa Lottery Hot Lotto jackpot in November, netting about $3.5 million after taxes. The retiree says that he invested most of his winnings but first set aside enough to buy the faltering La Porte City Country Club.

Police: Nothing strange in missing Neb. woman, son


May 13th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

PLATTSMOUTH, Neb. (AP) — Authorities say there are no signs of foul play in the disappearance of a Nebraska woman and her 11-year-old son. Plattsmouth police say Charlotte and Owen Schilling were last seen about 10 a.m. Thursday in the Plattsmouth area, when she checked the boy out of elementary school. They haven’t responded to cell phone calls from relatives.

Police say Charlotte Schilling’s vehicle was found Friday near Lake Manawa, which is just across the Nebraska border near Council Bluffs, Iowa. Her wallet and cell phone were in the car. Officer John Hardy said that there is concern about the whereabouts of Charlotte and Owen Schilling, but the investigation hasn’t shown evidence of a crime.

Audubon City Council to review set date of hearing on budget amendment


May 13th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

The Audubon City Council will likely act on setting May 29th at 7-p.m., as the date and time for a Public Hearing on a Budget Amendment, Monday. The action is expected to come toward the end of the Council’s regular meeting, which begins at 7-p.m., and follows the Council’s review of the proposed amendment. Other matters to come before the Council Monday evening, include: hearing from residents Janet and Neal Christoffersen, with regard to building repairs;  a hearing with Audubon resident Frank Billelo on Nuisance Lighting; the review of applications for a job opening in the Public Works Department, followed by action on a resolution hiring a Public Works employee.

In addition, the Audubon City Council will act on approving a resolution appointing Brandon Toft to the Park and Recreation Board, and, discuss the selling of a vacated alley to adjacent property owners.

Massena City Council to act on bids and discusss TIF, Monday


May 13th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

The City Council in Massena is slated to meet Monday evening. On the agenda for the 7-p.m. regular session, is the accepting of and possible action on, bids for: Tree removal in the park; Mosquito control; the replacement of a water line at well #5, and for a Fire Department tanker truck. The Council will also discuss the issue of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) , as well as discuss and/or act on: wages for the Clerk Pro-Tem; The City of Massena website; City Hall hours; the widening of parking spaces on Main Street, and the possible sale of the east half of Centennial Park property.

In addition, the Council will review and act on the approval or rejection of any uses of developing City-owned property, along with other matters.

City of Atlantic’s Board of Adjustment to meet Monday morning


May 13th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

The City of Atlantic’s Board of Adjustment will meet Monday morning at City Hall, to hold a public hearing on the reconstruction of a residential garage. The hearing in the Council’s Chambers at 7:30-a.m., is with regard to a variance application by Keith and Mary Jo Allenstein (103 W. 14th St.), that would allow for the reconstruction of a garage not conforming to accessory setback requirements as spelled out in the Zoning Ordinance.

Rural Atlantic resident to talk about her Ag Advisor position in Afghanistan

Ag/Outdoor, News

May 13th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

(update 5/22/12 – the event mentioned below has been postponed until 5/31/12 at 7-p.m. due to President Obama’s visit to Des Moines May 24th)

Rural Atlantic resident and organic farmer Denise O’Brien, who recently returned from a one-year appointment as a civilian agricultural advisor in Afghanistan, will speak about her experiences one-week from Thursday, in Des Moines. O’Brien,  who co-founded Women, Food and Agriculture Network in 1997, served in the advisory position for the USDA Office of Foreign Service Operations/Overseas.

She’s scheduled to speak on the topic 7-p.m. Thursday, May 24th, at 206 Cartwright Hall on the Drake University Campus at 27th St. and Carpenter Ave. in Des Moines.  O’Brien will also display her photos of farming in Nangarhar Province. A question and answer session will follow her presentation.The event is free and open to the public, and will be followed by a social hour at the Mars Café, 2318 University Avenue, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Boone boy dies in Central IA accident Saturday, 4 others injured


May 12th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

The Iowa State Patrol says a child died and four other people, all of whom are from Boone, were injured during a single vehicle accident Saturday afternoon in Central Iowa’s Boone County. 7-year old Jarret Stoneburner died at the scene of the crash at around 12:20-p.m. on L Avenue, southwest of Boone. The boy was a passenger in a 1997 Chevy Malibu that was traveling south on L Avenue when it went out of control, into a ditch and struck a cement culvert.

The driver of the car, 32-year old Kristin Stoneburner, and three other passengers: 12-year old Hailey Marie Stoneburner; 41-year old James Warren Matthews, and Makenya Larson (no age given), were injured in the crash. All four were flown by helicopter from the scene of the crash to area hospitals. The accident remains under investigation. Jarret Stoneburner was wearing a seat belt, but the Patrol’s report did not indicate if the other victims had worn theirs.