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CBJ Report: Largest Iowa companies have positive outlook in 2018

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Iowa's largest companies report positive outlook for 2018

Three-quarters of Iowa's largest companies expect an increase in sales over the next six months, according to the Iowa Business Council's quarterly economic survey, released yesterday.

Half of IBC members also anticipate an increase in both capital spending and employment during the first half of 2018. Overall, the reported economic outlook is positive, with a higher index number than this time last year - 63 compared to 59.

Responses from the IBC's Economic Outlook Survey indicate council members believe the economy is strong and will continue to grow through the start of 2018. None of the companies anticipate a decrease in sales over the next six months. Even with the positive economic outlook, however, more than 80 percent of council members said that attracting, developing and retaining a quality workforce is a challenge for their businesses.

In response to this challenge, IBC members have pledged to hire 30,000 interns, externs and apprentices by 2025 in an effort to strengthen the state's workforce, as the CBJ previously reported.

"Our members are engaging in several initiatives to tackle workforce challenges because they recognize this issue is critical for Iowa's future growth," IBC Executive Director Georgia Van Gundy said in a release. "In addition to the pledge, our members support legislation that focuses on workforce, like the Future Ready Iowa Act. If passed, the legislation will help employers hire the skilled workforce they need, and create more opportunities for Iowans to have rewarding careers."

Nearly half of council member companies reported that the cost of health care is another primary concern for their organizations. More than a third of members considered an unfavorable business climate - including infrastructure, regulations and taxes - a challenge.

The Economic Outlook Survey is completed by council members on a quarterly basis. The reported trends have a statewide impact, especially when considering that one in six jobs in Iowa are tied to an IBC member company.


Midwest Mattress set to open first of 3 Corridor stores

Urbandale-based Midwest Mattress has picked the Lindale Mall area of Cedar Rapids for the first of three Corridor stores it plans to open.

The new store will open next month at 4701 First Ave. SW in the Neighborhood Shopping Center, in a leased space formerly operated by Mattress Firm, a national mattress chain.

Build to Suit is completing the build-out of the space, which will feature a new design concept and a larger footprint than the company's other Iowa stores, according to Midwest Mattress President and Co-founder Michael Prichard.

Neighborhood Shopping Center houses Coldstone Creamery, Family Christian Book Store, Jimmy John's and Panchero's.

Mr. Prichard, an Iowa native, worked for a national retail chain before striking out with a partner to open Midwest Mattress locations in Urbandale. The company has since expanded to Ames, Cedar Falls and Waterloo.

Midwest Mattress is planning a second Corridor store later this year near Lowe's in Coralville, and a third store on the west side of Cedar Rapids. The full-service stores offer mattresses by Serta and Iowa-made Restonic.

TEDx coming to Cedar Rapids this May

The spirit behind TED, the annual conference gathering the world's leading thinkers and doers in the worlds of technology, entertainment and design, will come to Cedar Rapids this spring in the form of TEDx, a local, self-organized program produced under the nonprofit's banner.

Organized around the TED spirit of "ideas worth spreading," TEDxCedar Rapids will bring "inspirational people and innovative ideas together to share a TED-like experience," according to a Facebook announcement by the organizing group. It will be held May 12 from 1-5 p.m. at the Whipple Auditorium in the Cedar Rapids Public Library's downtown location.

The event will include keynote addresses, interactive breakout sessions and existing "TED Talk" videos aimed at exploring how the community can become "a significant contributor of change-inspiring ideas." A full schedule will be released in March before a limited number of tickets go on sale.

More than 15,000 TEDx events have been held around the world since the program's launch in 2009, according to the TEDx website, including in Iowa City in 2011.

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