Business & Economy
Heart of America Group expands business into East Peoria, IL and Olathe, KS. PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Stacy Christoffersen   
Monday, 20 December 2010 13:00
Heart of America Group expands business into East Peoria, IL and Olathe, KS.

Heart of America Group CEO Mike Whalen announced expansion plans for the company into East Peoria, IL and Olathe, KS. Both projects will be built and operated by Heart of America Group. East Peoria will be a six-story, 137 room Holiday Inn and Suites with a Thunder Bay restaurant and a meeting space large enough to accommodate 300 people. “After our success with the Holiday Inn and Suites in West Des Moines, we wanted to team up with them again” said Whalen.

In Olathe, KS they will build a six-story, 107 room Hilton Garden Inn with a Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse and large meeting space.

Starting with a 100-seat restaurant back in 1978, The Iowa Machine Shed, Heart of America Group has evolved into one of the Midwest's premier design, construction, and management company with a 32 year history of developing award-winning properties. Currently Heart of America Group is located in ten metropolitan areas across six Midwestern states.

The projects will be a catalyst for the City of East Peoria’s EP 2010 project, which will revitalize a vast brownfield former manufacturing area into a mixed use “new” downtown.

Olathe, KS was looking for a business class hotel to accommodate the growth of their area as well. The Olathe project will be the second project in Olathe for the HOA Group; the first hotel is a Comfort Suites and Inns built in 1997 and continues to be operated by HOA Group.

Both hotels will be LEED certified and create 125 jobs in each market. “The hotels will have a unique look. We do all of our own design work so we can create hotels that aren’t like anyone else’s” continues Whalen, “Next year will be the biggest expansion year in the history of the company”.

Construction on both of the $20 million projects will begin this spring with a target completion date in the spring of 2012.

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Harkin Statement on Senate Passage of the Tax Cut Agreement PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Sen. Tom Harkin   
Thursday, 16 December 2010 15:20

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today released the following statement after the U.S. Senate passed an agreement that provides a one-year extension of unemployment benefits for out-of-work Americans and a two-year extension of tax breaks for the country’s wealthiest.

“At a time when our annual deficit is close to $1 trillion – much of it borrowed from China; at a time when the wealthy are already enjoying a huge surge in income, even as middle-class incomes are stagnant; it is simply obscene to give another lavish tax cut to the top two percent.  Let me say what should be painfully obvious about this new bonanza for the rich: they don’t need it and we can’t afford it.  And it will not help the economy – in fact, in the longer term, it will hurt the economy.

“The fact is that these new tax breaks will make income inequality in the United States even worse.  In recent years, in the grip of the Great Recession, many millions of ordinary working Americans have lost their jobs, their homes, and/or their savings.  But the wealthy have made out very, very well.

“But I also have concerns that the nearly $900 billion in tax cuts in this agreement would crowd out necessary investments in priorities such as education, infrastructure, homeland security, health care and scientific research.  

“We needed to extend unemployment benefits for those that need it the most in this country, but that should have come without tax breaks for the wealthiest.”


Senate Vote on the Tax Agreement PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Sen Chuck Grassley   
Thursday, 16 December 2010 15:14

Statement by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa

Ranking Member of the Committee on Finance

Senate Vote on the Tax Agreement

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

“Preventing a tax increase is the best thing we can do for the economy right now.  It’s common sense that you don’t raise taxes in a recession, including on employers in small business where 70 percent of new jobs are created.

“The only thing better than passing this legislation would be to make tax relief permanent.  Uncertainty about tax rates works against America’s economic recovery.  We’ve seen nearly 23,000 jobs in biodiesel disappear because its tax incentive was allowed to lapse at the end of last year.  Every small business owner who pays taxes on the individual level faces higher taxes if a tax increase isn’t prevented across the board with this legislation.  There’s a rule that if you want more of something, don’t tax it.  We want more employment, so Congress should not allow higher taxes on employment.

“This legislation extends 51 tax incentives for different sectors of America’s economy, including ethanol.  These tax policies have been extended previously because they’ve been proven to help create economic activity.  This legislative agreement also makes sure the government can’t take more than half the estates of farmers and small business owners who have scrimped, sacrificed and saved their entire lives to build up a family business by imposing a 55-percent estate tax even after those business owners spent a lifetime paying income, investment and property taxes.

“Since World War II, the tax burden has averaged 18.2 percent of the gross domestic product.  Even if Congress were to extend all of the current-law tax levels permanently, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office indicates that taxes as a percentage of gross domestic product will still be much higher than they have been over the last 70 years.  So, even if we were to permanently keep the tax rates at current levels, Americans will be overtaxed when compared with what they’ve paid in recent history.

“We don’t have a deficit problem because people are taxed too little.  We have a deficit problem because Washington spends too much. The deficit needs to be taken on through economic growth and reduced spending.  Revenue to the federal Treasury will continue to increase with the level of taxes as they are today, which this bill will secure for two more years.

“Congress needs to listen to the people and support less spending.  In 2010, I voted for $278 billion in spending reductions.  All of those reductions were rejected by the majority party’s leaders.”

Fwd: Mississippi River Distilling Company to Open Dec. 17 PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Ryan Burchett   
Thursday, 16 December 2010 14:58

Le Claire, Iowa, December 13, 2010 – Mississippi River Distilling Company is proud to open the doors of their new business for visitors and connoisseurs alike.  The first micro-distillery in the Quad Cities area since Prohibition will roll out their first handcrafted product, River Baron Vodka, on Friday, December 17.  Mississippi River Distilling Company will release River Rose Gin in February followed by a bourbon whiskey in late 2011.

As artisan distillers, everything “from grain to glass” will be done at the Le Claire site.   100% of the grain comes from within 25 miles of the distillery, purchased directly from the farmer who grew it. The grain is first sorted and cleaned and then milled into a flour-like consistency.  The grain is cooked to make a mash and yeast is then added to let it ferment.  The fermented mash is distilled and then filtered and blended to proof.  From there, it either goes into a barrel or a bottle.  River Baron Vodka is made from a blend of corn from Le Claire and wheat from just across the river in Reynolds, Illinois.  This small batch process ensures that only the sweetest, smoothest portion of each distillation is used.

Each bottle that leaves the Mississippi River Distilling Company bears the unique stamp of handcrafted approval and is individually numbered to show the batch and bottle number.  According to the American Distilling Institute, Mississippi River Distilling Company is one of only about a dozen micro-distillers in the country and the only in Iowa or Illinois  to use only local grains in their spirits.

The largest eye-catcher in the building is a copper and stainless steel still that was handmade by Kothe Distilling Technologies in Eislingen, Germany.  The still, which has been affectionately named “Rose” by the distillers, consists of a 1,000 liter boiling pot and two tall copper purification columns.  Those columns house rectification plates that allow the purest vodka to be distilled, up to 95% alcohol.  Some or all of those plates can be turned off to make whiskey in a traditional pot still fashion or anything in between.

The building also hosts a retail area featuring River Baron Vodka, along with bar glassware, clothing and other souvenirs.  The retail shop is open from 10 AM to 5 PM Monday through Saturday and from 12 to 5 PM Sundays.  Free tours are offered to the public daily on the hour from 12 to 4 PM or by appointment.  The tour takes visitors through the entire distilling process.  Tours end in the Grand Tasting Room with free samples of products for those patrons over 21 years of age. The Grand Tasting Room will also feature artwork by a new local artist every two months.  The inaugural exhibit will be from renowned marine artist Michael Blaser’s “NIGHT AND DAY-ON THE RIVER.”  Blaser lives and works in Bettendorf, just a few miles from the distillery.

Distillers, and brothers, Ryan and Garrett Burchett are anxious for the community to get their first taste of River Baron Vodka. “This is really a dream come true,” comments Ryan Burchett.  “We decided to take a chance and now what started as a crazy idea, has grown into an opportunity to create something that these parts haven't seen since Prohibition.  It’s a chance for people in Iowa and Illinois to enjoy truly home grown, handmade spirits.”

Ethanol, Biodiesel Tax Credits in Tax Agreement PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Grassley Press   
Thursday, 16 December 2010 14:48

Common sense prevailed in the agreement reached last night on a tax proposal, including the fact that ethanol and biodiesel offer the most effective alternative to foreign oil and support hundreds of thousands of jobs in the United States.

The federal legislation contains an extension of the ethanol and biodiesel tax credits and an extension of the ethanol tariff at current rates.  The U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill on Monday afternoon.  The ethanol provision in this tax bill is an extension of current  law.  To leave it out of the tax bill would be a tax increase, which I don't support.

Americans spend $730 million a day on imported petroleum, and ethanol is the only renewable fuel substantially working to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.  Domestic ethanol displaces oil from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Nigeria.  It now accounts for almost 10 percent of the U.S. fuel supply.

The billions of dollars we spend on imported petroleum prop up unfriendly governments and dictators.  An average of $84 billion is spent each year by the U.S. military to protect oil transit routes.  Until there’s another alternative fuel doing as much to reduce oil dependence, it would be foolish to undermine the only green, domestic alternative to imported oil.

I fought tooth and nail to secure the inclusion of both the ethanol and biodiesel provisions in the new legislative proposal.  There were efforts by some congressional majority Democrats and the White House to weaken the tax policy for these alternative fuels.  In fact, the current congressional majority allowed the blenders’ tax credit for biodiesel to expire at the end of 2009.  Since then, 23,000 jobs in biodiesel have been lost nationwide.  The new tax agreement would extend the biodiesel credit retroactively to cover all of 2010 and through the end of 2011.

We can’t risk a repeat performance with ethanol, where 112,000 jobs are at stake.  Getting both of these tax provisions extended through the end of next year will boost jobs and investment in the alternative energy sector, exactly when the economy needs a real shot in the arm.

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