HOMER, Neb. -- An American Legion post without an American flag flying outside is like a birthday cake without the candles. It just doesn't look right.
Yet, for decades that had been the case in Homer, where the Buckland American Legion Post 97 was sans a flag. It wasn't for lack of desire, but the post's location made things challenging.
Power lines overhead removed the sidewalk as an option for a flagpole. The Legion didn't own the property to the west, and on the east side of the building was an alley, so that was out, too. How about mounting a flag on the building? Well, the exterior tile wasn't strong enough to hold a bracket and flag.
The Legion has been in a former movie theater at 22 John St. in Homer's business district since the 1950s. Members periodically talked about finding a solution to the lack of an outside flag display, but never quite got there.
Then along came Leadership Dakota County and Scott Carlson, Janice Hohenstein and Chance Bernstrauch.
"They just prodded us a little bit and we got things going," post commander Jim Horak said. "It's something we needed. We'd probably still be sitting on it."
That prodding is just one role of Leadership Dakota County, a program that promotes leadership skills, community involvement and community betterment projects each year among its 25 new participants.
When Carlson, Hohenstein and Bernstrauch -- all participants in the program this year -- looked over the list of potential projects they could get involved with, their individual connections to the military pulled them in Homer's direction.
Carlson had a son enlist in the Navy and is himself the son of a Korean War veteran who led the Disabled American Veterans group in Storm Lake, Iowa. Hohenstein has numerous relatives who are veterans. Bernstrauch has a brother in the Marines. Bernstrauch also saw the project as a way to say thank you to a community that had supported his family. His grandfather Neil Kaup was a principal and football coach in Homer years ago.
"The Homer community came together for him when he passed away two years ago," Bernstrauch said. "(The flag project) was a way for me to give back to the Homer community."
Bernstrauch attended a Legion meeting in Homer last winter and told members that Leadership Dakota County wanted to help them build a flag display outside. The offer was readily accepted.
As they began spreading the word about the project, Carlson said many local residents had the same reaction he had at first.
"When I told people the Legion didn't have a flag, they would say, 'A Legion doesn't have a flag?'" Carlson said.
It didn't seem right.
That might explain the outpouring of support the 50-member Legion post received.
A solution to the location problem was solved early on when Lauritsen Insurance Agency donated the small strip of land between it and the Legion hall for a flagpole.
The Legion began raising money this spring. To date, more than $20,500 has been raised or pledged. Members hit up community members. Local businesses held fundraisers. Former residents from as far away as California and Idaho contributed.
Much of the community got behind the campaign, and construction began, fittingly, around the Fourth of July.
Today, a flag now proudly flies in a paved courtyard between the Legion and the Lauritsen building. Plans for the area evolved to include a brick wall with planters behind the pole. The seals of the five military branches are displayed on the wall. A message thanking veterans also will be mounted on the wall. Lighting soon will be installed, and a project that had long been desired will be complete.
You'll find little disagreement among Legion members that this should have been completed years ago, but they're happy to see it done now, better late than never.
"It'll be a nice little addition to the town of Homer," Horak said.
For the Leadership Dakota County participants, it's satisfying to help Homer's veterans meet a longtime need.
"To be involved with something this major, it means a lot. And it turned out beautifully," Bernstrauch said.
DES MOINES — Iowa farmers got a double dose of good news Monday with the announcements that Taiwan intends to purchase up to 144 million bushels of U.S. soybeans over the next year with an estimated value of $1.56 billion and the Trump administration has reached a tentative trilateral trade deal with Canada and Mexico.
“Today’s announcement by our Taiwanese trading partners to increase purchases of U.S. soybeans is welcomed news,” said Iowa Soybean Association President-elect Tim Bardole, a Greene County farmer who grows soybeans near Rippey and was on hand for a signing ceremony with Taiwanese officials and Iowa acting Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg.
“As an Iowa soybean farmer, I can say firsthand that we need some good news,” added Bardole. “Soybean harvest is underway in Iowa and across the nation. This year is expected to be a record yield. We’re good at growing soybeans. Iowa and U.S. farmers are also committed to ensuring that we’re a reliable supplier and that our soybeans are of the highest quality. Taiwan knows this, evident by their intention to increase imports of U.S. soybeans by 37 percent compared to last year.”
With the new agreement, Taiwanese officials indicated that 90 percent of the soybeans they purchase will be grown in the United States. Yau-Kuen Hung, chairman of the Taiwan Vegetable Oil Manufacturers, called Monday’s development “a milestone” in the relationship between his nation and Iowa.
“Of course I would like to thank the state of Iowa and the Iowa Soybean Association for their support,” he told the Statehouse gathering.
In a deal that was formalized last Thursday in Washington, Taiwan plans to purchase between 118 and 144 million bushels of U.S. soybeans over the next year.
“Hopefully, we’ll just keep the positive optimism coming in and it hopefully will start providing some certainty to the markets, especially when it comes to agriculture.” Gov. Kim Reynolds said in an interview.
According to the Iowa Economic Development Authority, Taiwan is the sixth largest export market for U.S. soybeans, valued at $586 million in 2017, and the Asian nation ranks as Iowa’s 13th largest trading partner with exports estimated at $170 million in manufactured and value-added goods in 2017. In the first half of 2018, Iowa exports to Taiwan have increased 46 percent when compared with the previous year, officials said.
Eric Huang, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, said his country’s relationship with Iowa is “very close” and the Taiwanese have “trust and high confidence” in the quality of Iowa products.
Ernie Goss, a Creighton University professor who puts together the Mid-America economic index, noted the U.S. stock market reacted favorably to news of the tentative U.S. agreement with Mexico and Canada and he expected the soybean deal with Taiwan will work in tandem to help commodity prices increase in the short term and stabilize.
Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig, who spoke at Monday’s signing ceremony, told reporters afterward that “every bit helps.”
“This agreement is a significant increase. It gives us something like 90 percent market share in Taiwan now,” he said. “Does it replace a China in its entirety? No, but every bit helps to restore that certainty to the market that we desperately need.”
SIOUX CITY -- Before awarding a nearly $11 million contract Monday to a Sioux City construction company to build a parking ramp that would connect directly to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and also serve Tyson Events Center concertgoers, Councilwoman Rhonda Capron raised concerns about a lack of events at the Tyson.
Since Jan. 1, Philadelphia-based Spectra Venue Management has been managing the Tyson and the Orpheum Theatre. Spectra has projected it will reduce the city's subsidy at the Tyson by $270,000 in its first year through increased events and sponsorship revenue.
"We've been dealing with Spectra since January. We've been promised events. We haven't gotten events," said Capron, who noted that Hard Rock and Tyson management are supposed to be working together to bring events to the city. "They talk to each other, but talk is cheap if we don't have any events."
Rick Powell, director of operations for the Tyson, told Capron, "I can't answer on the events," before saying that Tyson and Orpheum general manager Erika Newton, who formerly directed Sioux City's Events Facilities Department, is currently in Nashville, Tennessee, working with various promoters to bring shows to Sioux City.
"I'm just frustrated," Capron said. "We put Spectra in in January and I haven't seen anything. We haven't gotten any reports. We haven't gotten anything back. I don't want to hear excuses anymore."
Newton said by phone Monday night that she is meeting with "a ton" of promoters and agents to talk about bringing shows to Sioux City. She said Sioux City is facing increased competition from venues that are bigger, newer and in larger markets.
"I think a lot of people's knee-jerk reaction is to blame Spectra, like Spectra's not doing what they said they were going to do. That's actually not true at all," she said. "We would've been going through this downturn now whether it was city-owned or Spectra-managed. We are actually lucky that we're part of the Spectra group at this point, because they can help us with that."
While Sioux City still owns the Tyson, and the Orpheum continues to be independently owned, Spectra is responsible for day-to-day operations, including booking, marketing, staffing, and food and beverage service. When the city council voted to privatize the Tyson's operations, Mayor Bob Scott said part of the deal was that Hard Rock would arrange a winter concert series at the Tyson. If that was still the case, he said those concerts would've been booked by now.
"I don't know whose fault that is, but it hasn't happened," he said.
Jim Franke, Hard Rock general manager, told council members that he has met with Newton and representatives from Spectra. John Page, president of content, arena and stadiums for Spectra, is scheduled to be in Sioux City Oct. 11 to talk with city leaders.
"We lost our director of entertainment, so that set us back a little bit," Franke said. "We'll continue to have those discussions and follow up as appropriate."
The council voted 4-0 to approve the contract with W.A. Klinger. Councilman Dan Moore said he abstained from voting because his law firm represents Hard Rock, which is owned and operated by Las Vegas-based Warner Hospitality.
The estimated cost of the parking ramp, which will stretch across Third Street, is $10,959,920. Of the three bids received, W.A. Klinger submitted the lowest bid, $10,910,475.
The structure at 205 Pearl St. would be a joint project between the city and Hard Rock, with both entities sharing the cost. Sioux City has included $5.5 million for the project in its budget for the current 2018-19 fiscal year.
The parking structure will sit on a 1.2-acre plot of land owned by the city, which previously was home to Liberty Bank. The ramp is expected to be built by Sept. 1, 2019.
Plans show the ramp will have 534 parking stalls and approximately 15,000 square feet of first-floor commercial space.
Under current plans, the city will own the ramp and retail space, which will then be leased by Hard Rock.