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CBJ Report: Breweries to feel pinch from metal tariffs

China raises tariffs on $50B of US soybeans, other goods.

Every week, the Corridor Business Journal shares stories it's working on with CBS2/FOX28. Here are some of their top stories that will appear in Monday's edition of the CBJ.

Breweries to feel pinch from metal tariffs

Businesses around the Corridor expect new tariffs on steel and aluminum to have wide-ranging effects, from the obvious - increases in the costs of making farm equipment, industrial machinery and construction materials - to those that are less evident, but still pack a wallop.

That goes especially for beer drinkers.

"Long story short, the tariffs are definitely a concern in a low-margin industry like ours,"

said J. Wilson, the self-styled "minister of Iowa beer" for the Iowa Brewers Guild, which advocates on behalf of about 90 members and brewers planning to enter the state's burgeoning craft beer industry.

"Stainless steel is already expensive, and that impacts not only keg costs, but brewing and fermentation vessels for startups and expansions," Mr. Wilson said, adding that the nation's only keg maker, American Keg Company, had already laid off a third of its workforce citing the impact of tariffs on American steel prices.

The spot-market price of hot-rolled coiled/sheet steel used widely in manufacturing hovered around $850 a ton as of last week - a 45 percent increase since October. President Donald Trump's 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent tariffs on aluminum went into effect late last month, with the president calling the nation's $568 billion trade deficit an "assault on our country."

Although Argentina, Australia, Brazil, South Korea and the EU won last-minute reprieves - and Mexico and Canada are temporarily exempted as the administration attempts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement - the tariffs apply to about half of all U.S. steel and aluminum imports, including those from China, Russia, Taiwan, Japan and India.

The hard-hit U.S. steel industry has cheered the move. But they've largely been cheering alone with stock markets shaking, farmers facing retaliation and manufacturers fretting about their profits. The uncertainty in the state' s brewing industry, which had been on track to triple production to 146,000 barrels annually by 2019, according to a 2015 Iowa Wine and Beer Promotion Board study, offers a kind of microcosm of the issue.

MakerHealth 'pop-up labs' aim to nurture nursing creativity

A new series of "pop-up labs" at UnityPoint - St. Luke's Hospital are inspiring local nurses to create their own solutions to common problems, as part of a larger push to improve patient care.

The hospital has been holding monthly pop-up labs where nurses and staff members can gather to discuss clinical headaches and create solutions since December, according to Rose Hedges, a UnityPoint informaticist who has been organizing the gatherings in conjunction with an MIT-based group called MakerHealth, which is pushing its MakerNurse initiative around the country.

MakerNurse's arrival in the Midwest began last September, when Ms. Hedges, a Mt. Mercy University graduate student, and Sharon Guthrie, an assistant professor of nursing at MMU, partnered to host an event at the university.

That resulted in the creation of a handful of early prototypes, including an IV "snuggie" to prevent tubes from freezing as helicopter nurses move patients from helipads to ERs, and a weighted eye mask that serves as an alternative to taping eyelids shut before surgery – although Ms. Hedges noted that the "solutions" may be as simple as different workflows or patient approaches.

"The idea is that health care professionals have workarounds they do every single day, we just don't share them," Ms. Hedges said in an interview. "How can we use our McGuyver skills to spread that knowledge and improve care?"

The MakerNurse it now continues in various departments of St. Luke's, thanks to limited financial support from MakerHealth and the St. Luke's Foundation. Last week, staff held a pop-up session for nurses working in operating rooms; before that, it held a session in the hospital's Center for Women's & Children's Health.

A typical session might include a challenge – keeping a patient's IV lines untangled in the rush to surgery, for example – and a table full of supplies ranging from Legos to zip ties to "moldable goo." MIT engineers are included via a two-way video feed, and often mail the group 3-D printed prototypes of their creations after a design session.

The gatherings are mainly intended to help unleash nurses' creativity in addressing a problem, but they may also have implications for the impending nursing shortage. Ms. Hedges, who is working toward a Doctorate of Nursing Practice from Clarke University in Dubuque, is studying how opportunities for innovation can be used to engage and retain staff, and predicted that "maker spaces" – dedicated facilities for experimentation and prototyping – will begin proliferating at hospitals around the country as health leaders recognize their potential.

“I think eventually it's going to be a standard in health care that you'll have these 'maker' spaces, where this kind of work will go on," Mr. Hedges said. "In every type of health care, you're always asked to do more and be creative in the roles that you're doing."

Former Squaw Creek Millwork sold as new Eco Lips home

A group of local investors has acquired the former Squaw Creek Millwork building at 1199 44th St., Marion, for $1.07 million, with a specific tenant in mind.

Eco Lips Inc., the growing Cedar Rapids-based manufacturer of lip balm and natural body care products is expected to lease and occupy the building July 1 from KTRO LLC, Eco Lips owner Steve Shriver said. It will include a state-of-the-art lab for testing ingredients and equipment that will enable Eco Lips to double production.

Driving the company's growth has been the strength of the Eco Lips brand, Mr. Shriver said, although the company's production is split almost evenly between its own brand and products made for sale under other brands.

The 34,000-square-foot building will undergo more than $600,000 worth of renovations and improvements to get ready for its new tenant. Eco Lips, with more than 50 employees, is currently located in the Cherry Building in Cedar Rapids' NewBo District.

Squaw Creek Millwork has since moved to Hiawatha, and the building has recently housed White Glove Movers and Shankopotamus Global, according to assessor records.

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