Business & Economy
In Iowa’s Interest: Confronting the Disability Unemployment Crisis PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Sen. Tom Harkin   
Thursday, 09 October 2014 15:18


Over half a century ago, when my brother Frank was at the Iowa School for the Deaf, he was told he could be one of three things: a printer, a cobbler, or a baker. He had unlimited potential, but his choices were limited by the societal barriers faced by too many people with disabilities. Our country has changed since then. With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, we began to tear down those obstacles and expand the opportunities for people with disabilities. We have increased the accessibility of our buildings, streets, parks, beaches, and recreation areas. Today, our books, TVs, telephones, and computers are more accessible. We are on the path toward the full realization of the four goals we set out to achieve with ADA: equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency; however, there is still work to be done.

Unfortunately, one area of American life has been resistant to change: employment and the pathway it provides to participate in the middle class. Twenty-four years after the signing of the ADA, Americans with disabilities remain disproportionately poor and face significant barriers to joining and remaining in the middle class.

This October, we observe National Disability Employment Awareness Month. While we should celebrate the progress that has been made, we must also recognize and confront the very real employment crisis faced by Americans with disabilities. People with disabilities remain far more likely to be impoverished, to be out of the workforce, and to be experiencing the detrimental effects of living in poverty.

On the most important economic measures such as unemployment, workforce participation, annual earnings, and poverty, people with disabilities often are in the worst condition compared to almost any other group. Twice as many Americans with disabilities live in poverty than those without disabilities. Less than 30 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities participate in the workforce, and households with an adult member with a disability earn 38.4 percent less than households without an adult member with a disability. These facts make it clear that people with disabilities are still encountering roadblocks in the path to the middle class and that the ADA’s goal of economic self-sufficiency has not yet been achieved.

As chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, I launched an investigation into these roadblocks. I heard from over 400 people with disabilities from across the country, all of whom had or currently live at the poverty level. They reported experiencing employment discrimination, discriminatory wages, inaccessible workplaces, and persistently low expectations about what they can accomplish. They also reported that they often cannot participate in the workforce because they lack reliable, accessible transportation and accessible, affordable housing. To fully realize the vision of the ADA, we as a nation must confront these problems.

Congress needs to do its part to develop strategies to clear the path to the middle class. I am optimistic that we will begin to see the benefits of the 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, passed by my committee, and recently signed into law by the president. The new law requires that schools and vocational rehabilitation programs work together to ensure young people with disabilities develop the skills and knowledge needed in emerging fields. It also provides resources for employers to learn how to support people with disabilities in the workforce and how to provide accommodations so individuals with disabilities can be successful at work. I have also recently introduced three bills, the Universal Home Design Act, the Accessible Transportation for All Act, and the Exercise and Fitness for All Act, to address the physical barriers to employment that people with disabilities still experience.

At the same time, we can all work to eliminate attitudinal barriers by celebrating the many contributions of America's workers with disabilities and educating others about disability employment issues. The time for America to shed narrow views about people with disabilities – prejudices that limited the opportunities for my brother and continue to limit the opportunities for countless others – is well overdue. Together, we can take the needed steps towards ensuring opportunity for all.

To read my report on disability and poverty visit: You can also learn more about ways to observe Disability Employment Awareness Month by visiting the Department of Labor website:

A PDF version of this article can be found here.


Finalists Named for MRA Awards Honoring Outstanding Businesses in the Community PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Mark McLaughlin   
Thursday, 09 October 2014 15:00
IOWA/WESTERN ILLINOIS – Earlier this year, MRA - The Management Association, Inc., asked Iowa and western Illinois residents to nominate businesses in their areas for two community involvement awards. “The response was amazing,” said Heather Roberts, Executive Director of the Iowa/Illinois Division of MRA. “As a result of the public nomination process, we are recognizing a total of 15 finalists for the Business Community Award and two Regional Impact Awards.”

MRA, a Midwest-based employers association, will host a ceremony recognizing the finalists and the award winners. The public is invited to the 2014 Business Appreciation & Awards Reception, to be held 5 p.m. Monday, October 27, 2014, at the iWireless Center, Moline, Illinois. The theme of the event will be Celebrating Our Past, Growing Our Future. 

The event will start with gourmet appetizers, cocktails, and music provided by Ellis Kell and the Friends of the River Music Experience. At 6:30 p.m., keynote speaker Jim Edgar, former Governor of Illinois, will share his vision on exploring future opportunities in the Midwest. Master of ceremonies Kai Swanson will begin the awards presentation at 7 p.m. Admission is $75 per person, $550 for groups of eight. Dress will be business attire. To register for the awards reception, call 888-516-6357 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

15 Finalists
In the Business Community Award category, five finalists have been chosen. The Regional Impact Awards category has 10 finalists – five For-Profit companies and five Not-For-Profit. 

For the MRA Business Community Award, the finalists are (in alphabetical order):

Arndt Chiropractic Center, Inc.
Bush Construction
DHCU Community Credit Union
Modern Woodmen of America
Royal Neighbors of America

For the MRA Regional Impact Award, the finalists are (in alphabetical order):

For-Profit Finalists:
Alcoa-North American Rolled Products
Group O
KJWW Engineering Consultants
Missman, Inc.
Tennant Truck Lines

Not-For-Profit Finalists:
Ascentra Credit Union
Career Cruising Quad Cities
Greater Quad Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Quad City Botanical Center
Renew Moline

“The finalists are all companies that have touched people’s lives and shown support for the community,” Roberts said. “Based on the many responses we received, we determined that the Regional Impact category would be better served if we separated it into For-Profit and Not-for-Profit finalists. Anyone interested in entrepreneurship, business growth, networking and leadership will want to attend this inaugural event.”

The MRA Business Community Award recognizes a business that has created an impact in the Iowa/Illinois region in three or more of the following areas:
- Has shown significant growth over the past five years and has increased employment.
- Recognized in the community for its ‘give back’ attitude.
- Has benefited the community by its presence.
- Participates in a variety of volunteer roles within the community.
- Known for outstanding customer service.
- Supports charities that benefit Iowa/Illinois area communities.

The MRA Regional Impact Award recognizes an organization that has created an impact in the Iowa/Illinois area in three or more of the following ways:

- Provides or has influence on the growth of jobs in Iowa/Illinois area communities.
- Recognized as a leader within its industry or service area.
- Recognized outside the Iowa/Illinois area for products, services, and/or changes.
- Provides a positive influence in the Iowa/Illinois area regarding transportation, environment, education, quality of life, and other community issues.
- Has shown commitment to the Iowa/Illinois area through new construction, redevelopment, or expansion.

At the event, MRA will present Visionary Awards to their charter members, who created the association in 1948. MRA will also honor the retirement of employee Debra Carlson after 19 years of dedicated service.

Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, MRA is one of the largest not-for-profit employers associations in the nation. Organizations join MRA as corporate members for the latest information, resources and guidance on recruiting, compensation, benefits, compliance and talent management. Members are supported with a 24/7 HR Hotline and InfoNow e-mail, access to crucial survey data, and HR, management and leadership training. To find out more about MRA, call 888-516-6357 or visit
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Cracking the Code to Innovation: 7 Steps That Guarantee Success PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 14:52

Everyone says they want innovation in their organization, but when an ambitious employee offers it to a CEO, for example, the idea is often shot down, says Neal Thornberry, Ph.D., faculty director for innovation initiatives at the Naval Postgraduate School in California.

“Senior leaders often miss the value-creating potential of a new concept because they either don’t take the time to really listen and delve into it, or the innovating employee presents it in the wrong way,” says Thornberry, who recently published “Innovation Judo,” (, based on his years of experience teaching innovation at Babson College and advising an array of corporate clients, from the Ford Co. and IBM to Cisco Systems.

“Innovation should be presented as opportunities, not ideas. Opportunities have gravitas while ideas do not!”

Thornberry outlines a template for innovation that works:

•  Intention: Once the “why” is answered, leaders have the beginnings of a legitimate roadmap to innovation’s fruition. This is no small task and requires some soul searching.

“I once worked with an executive committee, and I got six different ideas for what ‘innovation’ meant,” he says. “One wanted new products, another focused on creative cost-cutting, and the president wanted a more innovative culture. The group needed to agree on their intent before anything else.”

•  Infrastructure: This is where you designate who is responsible for what. It’s tough, because the average employee will not risk new responsibility and potential risk without incentive. Some companies create units specifically focused on innovation, while others try to change the company culture in order to foster innovation throughout.  “Creating a culture takes too long,” Thornberry says. “Don’t wait for that.”

•  Investigation: What do you know about the problem? IDEO may be the world’s premier organization for investigating innovative solutions. Suffice to say that the organization doesn’t skimp on collecting and analyzing data. At this point, data collection is crucial, whereas brainstorming often proves to be a waste of time if the participants come in with the same ideas, knowledge and opinions that they had last week with no new learning in their pockets.

•  Ideation: The fourth step is also the most fun and, unfortunately, is the part many companies leap to. This is dangerous because you may uncover many exciting and good ideas, but if the right context and focus aren’t provided up front, and team members cannot get on the same page, then a company is wasting its time. That is why intent must be the first step for any company seeking to increase innovation. Innovation should be viewed as a set of tools or processes, and not a destination.

•  Identification: Here’s where the rubber meets the road on innovation. Whereas the previous step was creative, now logic and subtraction must be applied to focus on a result. Again, ideas are great, but they must be grounded in reality. An entrepreneurial attitude is required here, one that enables the winnowing of ideas, leaving only those with real value-creating potential.

“Innovation without the entrepreneurial mindset is fun but folly,” Thornberry notes.

•  Infection: Does anyone care about what you’ve come up with? Will excitement spread during this infection phase? Now is the time to find out. Pilot testing, experimentation and speaking directly with potential customers begin to give you an idea of how innovative and valuable an idea is. This phase is part selling, part research and part science. If people can’t feel, touch or experience your new idea in part or whole, they probably won’t get it. This is where the innovator has a chance to reshape their idea into an opportunity, mitigate risk, assess resistance and build allies for their endeavor.

•  Implementation/Integration: While many talk about this final phase, they often fail to address the integration part. Implementation refers to tactics that are employed in order to put an idea into practice. This is actually a perilous phase because, in order for implementation to be successful, the idea must first be successfully integrated with other activities in the business and aligned with strategy. An innovation, despite its support from the top, can still fail if a department cannot work with it.

About Neal Thornberry, Ph.D.

Neal Thornberry, Ph.D., is the founder and CEO of IMSTRAT, LLC a consulting firm that specializes in helping private and public sector organizations develop innovation strategies. A respected thought leader in innovation, Thornberry is a highly sought-after international speaker and consultant. He  also serves as the faculty director for innovation initiatives at the Center for Executive Education at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. Thornberry, author of “InnovationJudo:Disarming Roadblocks & Blockheads on the Path to Creativity” (, holds a doctorate in organizational psychology and specializes in innovation, corporate entrepreneurship, leadership and organizational transformation.

Letter to editor re Joni Ernst on Minimum wage PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Lance Coles   
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 14:49

Dear Ms. Ernst,

You recently said that a federal minimum wage was “ridiculous.” A policy that protects tens of millions of American workers and whose erosion due to Congressional passivity has left 200,000+ Iowans making less today, adjusted for inflation, than low­wage workers made 46 years is far from ridiculous.

Are the 70­80% of Americans ­­ across every demographic group, including a majority of Republicans ­­ who, in poll after poll, support raising the federal minimum wage ridiculous?


Are the four Republican Presidents ­­ Eisenhower, Nixon, and both Bushes ­­ who raised the minimum wage ridiculous?


Are the 61% of small business employers polled by the American Sustainable Business Council who support a raise in the federal minimum wage ­­ including 49% of Republican small business employers ­­ ridiculous?


Are the seven Nobel Prize­winning economists who support a raise in the federal minimum wage ­­ citing the “stimulative effect on the economy as low­wage workers spend their additional earnings” ­­ ridiculous?


Are conservative leaders like Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Bill O’Reilly, and Phyllis Schlafly ­­ who point out that indexing the minimum wage assures business certainty and that rewarding work lessens public assistance expenditures ­­ ridiculous?


Are the 65% of Iowans polled who favor raising the minimum wage ­­ including Senator Tom Harkin, who drafted the federal bill that would bring $430 million in aggregate wage increases to hundreds of thousands of Iowans ­­ ridiculous?


A growing substantial consensus of Americans, Republicans, small business employers, economists, conservative leaders, and, specifically, Iowans believe that the minimum wage should be restored to its past purchasing power: $10.94, which the minimum wage would be today if the 1968 minimum wage was adjusted for inflation. They also believe it should be preserved through indexing so that the purchasing power of the federal minimum wage is never eroded again.

You are running for Senator ­­ a federal office ­­ and the people of Iowa deserve to know your stance on the federal minimum wage. The question is simple: If elected, would you support or oppose restoring the purchasing power of the federal minimum wage?


The 200,000+ Iowans who are making less today, adjusted for inflation, than minimum wage workers made 46 years ago await your answer.


Charlie Wishman, Secretary/Treasurer Iowa Federation of Labor – AFL-CIO

Square 1 Bank Announces Credit Facility to Orbis Education PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Dee McDougal   
Tuesday, 07 October 2014 13:23

CHICAGO, Oct. 7, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Square 1 Bank, the premier banking partner to entrepreneurs and the venture capital community, today announced that it has provided a $5 million credit facility to new client Orbis Education, an education solutions company bridging the gap between academic and healthcare communities. Proceeds of the credit facility will provide working capital to support the company's future growth.

Founded in 2003, Orbis set out to examine the root causes of the nursing shortage and to develop a company and business model that would help address the issues it identified. Through collaborations with leading education institutions, hospitals, and nursing programs, Orbis created innovative nursing education solutions such as curriculum building, online instruction and accelerated degree opportunities.

"From the first conversation with us, Square 1 understood our business and our industry, which allowed it to create a flexible credit facility that will help Orbis attain its growth plans," said Dan Briggs, CEO and president of Orbis Education. "Square 1 Bank will be a great partner for us for the long term."

Ryan Dammeyer, managing director of Square 1 Bank's Midwest practice, added, "With strong backing from investors and leading medical universities across the country, Orbis Education has established itself as a pioneer for modern healthcare education solutions. We're very pleased to partner with a company committed not only to building a sustainable, educated workforce for future generations, but also to quality patient care."

About Square 1 Bank

Square 1 Bank is a full service commercial bank dedicated exclusively to serving the financial needs of the venture capital community and entrepreneurs in all stages of growth and expansion. Square 1's expertise, focus and strong capital base provide flexible resources and unmatched support to meet our clients' needs. Square 1 has offices coast-to-coast in Austin, the Bay Area, Boston, Denver, Durham, Los Angeles/Orange County, New York, San Diego, Seattle, Silicon Valley and Washington, DC. For more information, visit

About Orbis Education

Founded in 2003, Orbis Education creates, markets, and manages collaborative healthcare education solutions that help alleviate workforce shortages for hospitals and healthcare systems. Orbis Education enables the growth of existing educational programs by pairing an academic institution with a healthcare system to offer high quality programs. For more information, visit

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