Business & Economy
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Lori Blackburn   
Tuesday, 01 April 2014 13:00

Unique Combination of Capabilities and Expertise Amplified to Energize Business Growth

CEDAR RAPIDS/CEDAR FALLS, Iowa—Henry Russell Bruce (HRB) and ME&V Advertising + Consulting, two of Iowa’s top advertising agencies, today reported the completion of a merger first announced on March 3. The new entity is now AMPERAGE Marketing.

AMPERAGE, a company of more than 50 people with offices in Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Dubuque and Bettendorf, Iowa, creates a unique combination of capabilities and expertise to provide clients with evidence-based marketing and communications strategies that generate proven results. The tagline for the new agency is, “Move the Needle.”

“Our goal is to forge a powerful connection for our clients to energize business growth,” said Bryan Earnest, former president of ME&V, and now AMPERAGE president and CEO. “We will move the needle for our clients by connecting with their target audiences, motivating action, measuring effectiveness and reporting proven results.”

Earnest also announced AMPERAGE’s senior management team today: Jim Thebeau, former CEO of HRB, will be chairman of the board; Steve Erickson, former president of HRB, will be chief creative officer; Mark Mathis, former director of cool of ME&V, will be chief strategy officer; and Jim Infelt, former creative director for ME&V, will be chief digital officer.

The combined agency represents more than 200 clients across 10 states and offers branding, marketing, advertising, public relations, corporate communications, Web and digital marketing, media buying, fundraising and complete video services. Clients represent the healthcare, higher education, financial, manufacturing and nonprofit industries. Combined capitalized billings are approximately $33 million.

“We’ve already begun to see a positive response to the merging of our combined brands and reputations,” said Earnest. “Companies and organizations are contacting us to gain the benefit of our depth of experience, consulting expertise and marketing capabilities. We’re excited about the recognition of the merger in our markets and verticals.”

Earnest also revealed that the actual merger of the two firms was almost a full year in the making, with both sides taking time to ensure that becoming a single business was right for all the clients, employees and owners.

“We found we had a lot in common,” explained Earnest, “and that we had the same goals to grow our businesses. Just among the partners, we have more than 150 years of marketing, advertising and nonprofit fundraising experience. We all wanted to use that experience to achieve a new level of service offerings and dynamic results for our clients.”

The alliance creates one of the largest advertising agencies in eastern Iowa and the largest fundraising consulting firm in the state, with more than $100 million raised for nonprofits over the last 15 years.



AMPERAGE is a full-service advertising and marketing consulting company offering comprehensive services to business-to-business and business-to-consumer clients across the U.S. Its primary focus areas are branding, marketing and communications services for the healthcare, financial, higher education and manufacturing sectors, and nonprofit fundraising. The origins of the company date to 1973. For more information, visit,or call 800-728-2656.

Background on ME&V and HRB:

ME&V Advertising + Consulting started in 1996. It is a two-time Inc. Magazine 500 fastest-growing companies designee and an Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year. ME&V has category specialization in healthcare, higher education, financial and nonprofit fundraising.  ME&V also includes a video production arm. ME&V currently operates in offices in Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids and Des Moines.

Henry Russell Bruce (HRB) just celebrated its 40th anniversary in Cedar Rapids. HRB was voted best ad agency in the Corridor by Corridor Business Journal readers six times. HRB has category specialization in healthcare, medical device marketing, higher education, fashion, retail, manufacturing and transportation. HRB currently operates offices in Cedar Rapids and the Quad Cities.


Turning Sales into Retirement PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Tuesday, 01 April 2014 12:12

3 Steps for Turning a Real Estate or Business Sale
into the Ideal Retirement

Financial Experts Share Common Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

Throughout life, we encounter a number of “financial impact points” -- pivotal events with the potential to make our dreams come true, say financial advisors Chris Snyder and Haitham “Hutch” Ashoo, co-authors of “Exiting Strategies: The CEO’s Seven Critical Steps To Cashing-Out of a Business, Managing and Preserving Wealth.”

“The sale of a business or real estate is one of those,” says Chris Snyder, co-founder with Ashoo of Pillar Wealth Management, ( “With the right planning, it can become your ideal retirement.”

Unfortunately, sellers often make fundamental mistakes: They underestimate how much money they’ll need for their retirement; they overvalue their business or property; and they often fail to properly invest the proceeds in a diversified portfolio of equities, bonds and money markets for income.

How can you turn your business or property sale into your ideal retirement? Snyder and Ashoo offer these tips:

1.  Determine the retirement lifestyle you desire, and how much money it will cost.

If you don’t know how much money you’ll need, you can’t identify how much you need to net from the sale, Ashoo says.
“How many homes will you have? Do you see yourself traveling? Creating a charitable organization?”

Create a detailed list. How much money will it cost you each year? If you retire at 55 or 65, odds are good you’ll enjoy a 30- to 40-year retirement.How much will you need for that length of time?

“When you meet with your wealth manager, insist on running that number through 1,000 different ‘launch’ scenarios – what we call a ‘space shuttle’ analysis – to test whether it will meet your expenses under a wide variety of market and world conditions,” Ashoo says.

“You can’t rely on an Excel sheet analysis based on fixed rates of return and fixed expenses for the rest of your life. It’s a sure way to financial disaster because there’s no such thing as zero risk.”

2.  Get an objective valuation of your business or real estate.

Very often, Snyder says, he and Ashoo work with clients who have a vastly inflated idea of how much their business or property is worth. When they decide to sell, they either can’t because no one will pay what they’re asking, or they get far less than they expected.

“People often attach an emotional value to the asset, particularly a business or legacy real estate,” Snyder says. “Hire a merger and acquisition professional to provide you with a real market valuation for your business, or a real estate appraiser to do the same for property.”

If the value isn’t where it needs to be, you may need to make some lifestyle changes or hold onto the asset longer.

Another caution: “If you performed step 1 thoroughly and you are confident you need $15 million for your retirement and someone offers you $20 million, take it,” Ashoo advises. “Don’t hold out for $23 million just because you think that’s what it’s worth.”

3.  Invest the proceeds prudently and in a way that will generate income.

Once your real estate or business is sold, you need to build a diversified portfolio of equity, bonds and money markets that will balance your risk and generate an income, Snyder says.

“Modern portfolio theory holds that 93 percent of the return on your investment is based on your mix of these asset classes,” he says
Adds Ashoo: “But prudent investing entails not accepting more risk than is required to achieve your retirement lifestyle.” Don’t rely on a simple risk questionnaire to make that determination for you, the two say.

Again, have your wealth manager run your portfolio through a “space shuttle’’ analysis to test how it will perform under many different conditions.

About Chris Snyder and Haitham “Hutch” Ashoo

Chris Snyder and Haitham “Hutch” Ashoo are co-founders of Pillar Wealth Management, (, of Walnut Creek, Calif., and co-authors of numerous published works including  “Exiting Strategies: The CEO’s Seven Critical Steps To Cashing-Out of a Business, Managing and Preserving Wealth,” available as a free download at their website. The two specialize in customized wealth management advice to affluent families. Their unique five-step consultative process for new clients ensures they have a deep understanding of clients’ goals. The two have a combined 51 years of experience.

Lt. Gov. Reynolds to lead trade mission to Thailand PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Office of the Governor of the State of Iowa   
Monday, 31 March 2014 11:08

Reynolds to join Iowa Soybean Association on trade mission to encourage the purchase of Iowa soybeans, soymeal and other Iowa-made products

(DES MOINES) – Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, accompanied by Gov. Terry Branstad, Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) Director and soybean farmer from Maxwell, Iowa, Grant Kimberley, today announced that she will lead a trade mission to Thailand to encourage the purchase of Iowa soybeans, soymeal and other Iowa-made products. The trade mission was organized by ISA. The lieutenant governor and the Iowa delegation will depart Saturday, April 5, 2014, and will return Saturday, April 12, 2014.

“Last year, Iowa exported $5.6 billion in oilseeds and grains, and with new markets opening up in Asia, we want to encourage those markets to buy Iowa-grown soybeans and other Iowa-made products,” said Reynolds. “Thailand, with a population over 69 million, has the largest and most sophisticated soy food industry in Southeast Asia. With Iowa producing more soybeans than most countries in the world, there is tremendous potential to increase Iowa’s exports.”


The Iowa delegation will travel to Bangkok and Nakhon Rathasima, Thailand, for three days of meetings with industry leaders, site visits to processing facilities and feed companies, and talks directly with potential buyers. Reynolds will be accompanied by Kirk Leeds, CEO of the Iowa Soybean Association, and Brian Kemp, ISA President and farmer from Sibley, Iowa.

“With 95 percent of the world’s consumers residing outside the United States, Lieutenant Governor Reynolds and I understand the importance of creating and fostering global partnerships to increase economic development and job creation in Iowa,” said Branstad. “With one in five Iowa jobs depending on international trade, Lieutenant Governor Reynolds and I are committed to promoting and growing Iowa’s trade reach beyond our domestic borders.”

Over the past three years, the Branstad-Reynolds administration has organized and led trade missions leading to impressive economic development in the state. Since January of 2011, the Iowa Economic Development Authority has assisted foreign direct investment projects that are expected to result in the creation of nearly 1,000 jobs and over $2 billion in capital investment for Iowa.

The visit to Thailand represents an important investment in Iowa’s soybean industry.

“According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture report, at more than $30 billion, Iowa ranks second nationally for the total value of ag products sold, representing both crops and livestock and exports represent an important component. These trips are truly an investment; for our farmers and our state,” says Kimberley. “And we can identify the return on these investments when we see shipments of U.S. soybeans to Thailand. These didn’t exist just a few years ago. ISA understands the importance of connecting with our partners by visiting their facilities and businesses overseas and also hosting these partners at our own farms.”

The Iowa Soybean Association is paying for costs incurred by the lieutenant governor during the trade mission.


Spend Your Tax Refund Wisely PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Jason Alderman   
Monday, 31 March 2014 10:07
Last year the IRS doled out over 110 million income tax refunds averaging $2,803. Another way to look at it is that collectively, Americans overpaid their taxes by nearly $310 billion in 2012.

Part of that is understandable: If you don't have enough tax withheld throughout the year through payroll deductions or quarterly estimated tax payments, you'll be hit with an underpayment penalty come April 15. But the flip side is that by over-withholding, you're essentially giving the government an interest-free loan throughout the year.

If you ordinarily receive large tax refunds, consider withholding less and instead putting the money to work for you, by either saving or investing a comparable amount throughout the year, or using it to pay down debt. Your goal should be to receive little or no refund.

Ask your employer for a new W-4 form and recalculate your withholding allowance using the IRS' Withholding Calculator (at This is also a good idea whenever your pay or family situation changes significantly (e.g., pay increase, marriage, divorce, new child, etc.) IRS Publication 919 can guide you through the decision-making process.

Meanwhile, if you do get a hefty refund this year, before blowing it all on something you really don't need, consider these options:

Pay down debt. Beefing up credit card and loan payments can significantly lower your long-term interest payments. Suppose you currently pay $120 a month toward a $3,000 credit card balance at 18 percent interest. At that pace it'll take 32 months and $788 in interest to pay it off, assuming no new purchases. By doubling your payment to $240 you'll shave off 18 months and $441 in interest.

Note: If you carry balances on multiple cards, always make at least the minimum payments to avoid penalties.

The same strategy will work when paying down loans (mortgage, auto, personal, etc.) Ask the lender to apply your extra payment to the loan principal amount, which will shorten the payoff time and reduce the amount of overall interest paid. Just make sure to ask whether there's a prepayment penalty before trying this strategy.

Boost your emergency fund. As protection against a job loss, medical emergency or other financial crisis, try to set aside enough cash to cover six to nine months of living expenses. Seed the account with part of your refund and then set up monthly automatic deductions from your paycheck or checking account going forward.

Increase retirement savings. If your debt and emergency savings are under control, add to your IRA or 401(k) accounts, especially if your employer matches contributions; remember, a 50 percent match corresponds to a 50 percent rate of return – something you're not likely to find anywhere else.

Finance education. Enroll in college courses or vocational training to gain additional skills in case you lose your job or want to change careers. And ask whether your employer will help pay for job-related education.

You can also set money aside for your children's or grandchildren's education by contributing to a 529 Qualified State Tuition Plan. As an incentive, the government allows your contributions to grow tax-free until they're withdrawn.

And finally, to check on the status of your refund, go to the IRS's Where's My Refund site. You can usually get information about your refund 24 hours after the IRS acknowledges receipt of your e-filed return or about four weeks after filing a paper return.

A Better Illinois Unveils New Fair Tax Calculator Based on Actual Rates PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Neal Waltmire   
Friday, 28 March 2014 10:30

At, Illinoisans can see how much less (or more) they will pay under the Fair Tax rate structure introduced this week by chief sponsor Sen. Don Harmon

Chicago, IL – Today, A Better Illinois coalition unveiled the Illinois Fair Tax Calculator based on the Fair Tax rate structure proposed this week by chief sponsor Sen. Don Harmon.  Harmon’s rates would cut taxes for 94% of Illinoisans, including everyone earning up to $200,000.

The Illinois Fair Tax Calculator, found at, allows citizens to type in their income and the number of people in their household to determine the size of their tax cut, or tax increase, compared to the current flat rate.

This is an important distinction – as opponents of a Fair Tax have released numerous calculators using fabricated rate structures, inaccurate baselines, and other inputs that simply lie and tell citizens their taxes will go up, no matter what income they enter.

Unlike the current flat rate, the rate structure proposed this week is a Fair Tax, with lower rates for lower incomes and higher rates for higher incomes.  It includes the following marginal tax rates:

Illinois Fair Tax Proposed Rates By Bracket

1st Bracket



2nd Bracket



3rd Bracket

$180,000 & Above








CNBC describes marginal tax rates as “what's happening at the 'margins' or ends of someone's income, not on the total income. Simply put, someone's income is divided into sections of amounts and those sections each have a different marginal tax rate.”

So for example, a person making the median Illinois income of $55,137 does not pay 4.9% on their entire income.  They would pay 2.9% on the first $12,500 of taxable income (the first $2,100, known as a standard deduction, is not taxed).  Their remaining income after $14,600 is taxed at the 4.9%.

This Illinois Fair Tax Calculator allows citizens to determine their tax savings or additional tax burden – honestly and without cooked formulas designed to mislead – in a matter of seconds.


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