CBJ Report: Iowa Senators react to Trump pulling US out of TPP

Every week, the Corridor Business Journal shares stories it's working on with CBS 2 News. Here are some of their top stories that will appear in Monday's edition of the CBJ.

Iowa Senators react to Trump pulling US out of TPP

President Donald Trump's decision to back out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal imperils a $62 billion market, adding another threat to the slumping, export-dependent U.S. ag economy, reports Reuters.

Mr. Trump won nearly two-thirds of the rural vote in November, with the backing of big ag states including Iowa, which exported $13 billion in farm products in 2015. That makes for some tricky politics.

Sen. Joni Ernst said she was "disappointed" with Mr. Trump's decision, reports Radio Iowa. "With one in five jobs in Iowa dependent on trade, access to new markets is critical to our state's economy."

Sen. Chuck Grassley fears damage to trade with Japan, but offered a hopeful note. "I wouldn't make any judgments that Trump's wrong for trying to get a better deal for America. If he can do that, I'll support that," he said.

Eastern Iowa Health Center looks to expand

The Eastern Iowa Health Center (EIHC) is in the midst of an ambitious expansion as the nonprofit aims to expand its services to more low-income, at-risk patients.

The organization is preparing to open new dental and urgent care clinics just months after opening a new women's health center on the northeast side of Cedar Rapids, EIHC President and CEO Joe Lock told attendees at today's Cedar Rapids Downtown Rotary meeting.

The Eastern Iowa Women's Health Center opened at the start of January at the former UnityPoint Health - St. Luke's Family Health Center at 4251 River Center Court NE. The new space doubled the number of women's exam rooms available to staff, from 10 to 20, and will offer additional services under Title X, the federal grant program designated for family planning services, Mr. Lock said in an interview.

The new dental center, located next to the organization's main clinic on Third Avenue SE, will open March 1, and offer dental services on a sliding scale. The nonprofit has already hired a staff of two dentists and four hygienists, Mr. Lock said, and is expecting to serve more than 22,000 patients in its first three years - an estimate he described as "conservative."

The new urgent care clinic is set to open April 1, and will offer more immediate treatment options to Medicaid and uninsured patients in the community who have been unable to make traditional appointments, whether due to high demand or transportation difficulties. Mr. Lock noted that roughly one-third of EIHC miss their appointments due to transportation or other life issues.

"We still have 500-plus patients on a waiting list that we can't access," he said in response to questions about the need for an urgent care clinic.

The organization just last fall wrapped a $2 million renovation to its main clinic on Third Avenue, which converted office space into more clinic space, and increased the number of ADA-accessible exam rooms by 80 percent.

Windstar Lines could bring bus service to Chicago back to eastern Iowa

Bus service to Chicago may resume at the Coralville Transit Intermodal Facility soon under an arrangement between Windstar Lines of Carroll, Iowa and the New Jersey-based Megabus, which recently ceased operations in Iowa.

Megabus previously operated out of the Court Street Transportation Center in downtown Iowa City just south of Burlington Street. In 2015, the company relocated to the newly-constructed Coralville Transit Intermodal Facility at the Iowa River Landing. Megabus stopped offering bus service statewide on Jan. 9, however, which a company spokesperson attributed to low gas prices that reduced demand for public transit.

Last week, the Coralville City Council approved a rental agreement for the city’s Transit Intermodal Facility, which is poised to allow Windstar Lines to use the facility’s terminal area for passenger waiting, pick-up and drop-off. The one-year agreement is for $750 a month and would begin March 1. Subsequent renewals would annually increase the rental cost by two percent.

According to a memo by city staff, revenue generated from the agreement will fund both operational and capital needs of the city’s transit services, which include municipal bus lines that extend to downtown Iowa City and the University of Iowa campus. City Parking and Transportation Director Vicky Robrock said the intermodal facility does not currently offer bus routes outside the Coralville area.

Whether Windstar offers that service, however, may hinge on a partnership with Megabus. Under a possible arrangement described by Windstar Vice President Pat Greteman, Megabus may soon book travelers’ reservations for transportation provided by Windstar.

“We’d basically use the Coralville stop as our Iowa City-area pickup for to and from Chicago, as well as the Quad Cities and Omaha,” Mr. Greteman said last week. “So we’re operating the service and we’re taking the risk.”

“But we don’t have everything signed and 100 percent agreed on yet,” he added.

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