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Mary (Christine Dornbusch) is not impressed when her fiance John (Grant Yoder) tells her about his wound that she can hardly see, in this scene from CFCT’s 'John Loves Mary.' 

Family-run business gearing up for spring

CEDAR FALLS — Despite several inches of snow on the ground, a Cedar Falls family-run business has their eyes firmly set on spring. Their family-run business, repairing and manufacturing industrial-strength custom fabric projects, depends on it.

“Spring and summer are definitely our busy seasons,” said Chad Everly, owner of Canseal Canvas in Cedar Falls.

Everly took over the business from his mother, Jo Everly, five years ago with the help of his sister, Derise Vlasak. Both had been groomed on the job from a young age.

It all began in the early 1970s when Jo Everly wanted to work from home when she began having children with her husband, then a John Deere employee, Gene Everly.

Jo had worked in an overall factory in her hometown of Pella, as well as a bean bag company in Cedar Falls when she combined her passions and launched an industrial sewing business in 1975 in her basement.

Jo originally thought she was going to be making canvas covers for semi-trucks, which she never ended up doing because her customer’s had their own ideas of what they wanted covered and protected from the harsh Iowa elements.

Canseal Canvas was not just the name of the company, it also was an explanation to her customers — When something is broke, see if it can be fixed before throwing away.

“People don’t know you can repair things. They just replace them,” Vlasak said.

Once word got out, Jo’s business quickly picked up.

“It’s basically word of mouth, period. You do a good job on something and word does get out,” Jo said. “We’re super picky, and that was something I’ve really stressed,” she said. “I think that’s the reason we get picked to do a lot of jobs.”

Over the nearly 40 years Jo spent working on projects, boat covers were the main request from customers, as well as canvas tents.

“I’ve repaired a million tents,” Jo said, “putting in new zippers and that kind of stuff, and now they’ve made tents too cheap,” she said, noting tents now are often made with plastic instead of canvas. “People just throw them away.”

In the beginning, boat covers were about 70 percent of the business, Chad said, noting he has seen several covers come back to the shop for repairs that their mother made 20-30 years ago.

“That’s kind of our pride and joy,” he said. “Now, it’s like 20 (percent of business). But we haven’t gone down on boat covers,” just expanded in other areas.

They use a specialized material, as well as a cotton polyester blend of thread, to ensure durability in all conditions.

During the winter months, the crew — Chad, Vlasak and their cousin Brittanie Kochheiser — focus on a variety of projects, including a 378-foot, 18 ounce vinyl canvas for Print Transformations, which will eventually go up on Luther College’s softball field.

“The wind wreaks havoc on typical banner material,” Chad said.

The crew also creates custom fittings for odd jobs, including parts for grain machines, as opposed to metal, at Roskamp Champion and hog flags for Tyson Foods in Waterloo for herding.

Being an entrepreneur in this industry seems to suit Chad well, his cousin and sister said.

“He wakes up in the middle of the night and searches sewing machines,” Kochheiser said, as well as thread. “Sometimes he’ll get really frustrated and be like, ‘OK, I need some sewing time’ to calm down a little bit.”

“I really, really like to sew. It’s very therapeutic for me; you concentrate on what’s right in front of you, and that’s it,” Chad said.

Although he admits he’s also been thinking about expanding.

“We definitely need the room. In the summer, we’re way too close to each other.”

But Chad, like his mom, depends on word-of-mouth advertising.

“A lot of our customers are promoters,” he said. “She (Jo) didn’t advertise or nothing. She’s got a good reputation and ... that’s why she’s picky about our standards. We count on that to keep going.”

House GOP aims to address opioid addiction

DES MOINES — Doctors and pharmacists would be required to register with and check an electronic state database when prescribing and issuing opioid painkillers under legislation introduced Thursday at the Iowa Capitol.

The requirement is part of a package of measures designed to address opioid addiction in Iowa, unveiled Thursday by Iowa House Republicans.

There were 180 opioid-related deaths in 2016, according to the state public health department. That is more than triple the number of Iowa’s opioid-related deaths in 2005.

The opioid epidemic is worse in other states; Iowa ranks near the bottom of the country in the rate of opioid deaths per capita, far below the worst-hit state, West Virginia, which experienced more than 800 opioid-related deaths in 2016, according to that state’s data.

But state lawmakers in Iowa have said they want to develop programs to address opioid addiction before the issue gets worse here.

Linda Upmeyer, the Republican Speaker of the Iowa House from Clear Lake, called the House GOP plan “proactive rather than reactive.”

The goals, Upmeyer said, are to prevent people addicted to opioids from obtaining them from multiple doctors, reduce over-prescribing, and provide support to individuals who have become addicted.

“While Iowa is not seeing the same level of epidemic as some states on the East coast or even Ohio and some of our other neighbors, we certainly recognize that we have a problem here, and especially along our borders we have very challenging problems,” Upmeyer said.

Advocates have pressed for requiring doctors and pharmacists to consult the state’s prescription monitoring program. But that requirement has received push back from some physicians and lawmakers.

More than half of U.S. states require prescribers to consult their state’s prescription monitoring programs, which are designed to identify individuals who attempt to obtain opioid painkillers from multiple sources.

Less than half of Iowa prescribers are registered to use the state’s program, according to state officials.

“I think what we have seen nationally, as well as here in Iowa, that physicians recognize that we certainly are facing a crisis and an issue with opioids,” said Rep. Shannon Lundgren, a Republican from Peosta who helped craft the plan. “We’ll have to wait to see (how physicians respond to the proposed requirement), but the ones that we have spoken with understand the process and why we’re doing it this way.”

The House GOP plan also would:

  • Require pharmacies to report to the program within 24 hours.
  • Prohibit opioid prescriptions from being filled more than six months after the date prescribed.
  • Establish a so-called Good Samaritan law, which would provide legal immunity to individuals who report an opioid overdose to emergency personnel, with exceptions for repeat offenders and drug dealers. Forty states have a similar law.

Rep. Mark Smith, the Democratic leader in the House, urged his fellow lawmakers to approve legislation addressing opioid addiction.

“I call on us as a Legislature to address these issues in an aggressive manner before we go home at the end of the session,” Smith said.


Trump ‘resistance’ not moving Iowa voter numbers

DES MOINES — It has been called a progressive tsunami, but the impact so far of the Trump “resistance” on voter registration in Iowa is barely a ripple.

Since the election of Republican President Donald Trump, groups like Indivisible Iowa have sprung up, organizing voters, holding events and swelling attendance at legislative forums and appearances by politicians.

But it doesn’t appear Trump’s opposition has increased voter registration much so far. Neither has it caused registered voters to switch parties, according to numbers from the Iowa Secretary of State.

There has been no significant shift in party affiliations when looking at data over the past three years. The GOP share of Iowa voters incrementally grew from 31 percent in January 2016 — just ahead of Iowa’s presidential caucuses — to 32 percent in January 2017 and 2018. Democrats held steady at 30 percent and no-party registration dipped from 38 to 37 percent.

That suggests the Trump opposition is “mostly having the effect of energizing the Democrats’ base,” said Tim Hagle, an associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa.

That may well be the case, according to Anna Plank of Iowa City, a founder of Indivisible Iowa, which says it is organized in all 50 state Senate districts.

Instead of a tsunami, Indivisible Iowa might be more like a slowly rising tide that will wash away incumbents in the November general election, Plank said.

“It feels like it’s moving really slowly sometimes, and then I have to remind myself we’ve only been at it a year,” Plank said.

So far, based on conversations she’s had with people participating in Indivisible Iowa, Plank said they are mostly Democrats. Others range from Bernie Sanders-style socialist Democrats to “Republicans who are uncomfortable with this administration.”

If that’s the case, Hagle said, Indivisible doesn’t have to increase voter numbers if it is energizing Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters to participate in the midterm election.

Republicans in Iowa enjoy a voter registration advantage, and historically have higher participation rates in midterms than Democrats.

“If Republicans are less enthusiastic and Democrats are fired up, a few percentage points change could mean the difference in close elections,” Hagle said.

Secretary of State Paul Pate pointed out Monday it’s difficult to increase voter registration numbers because more than 90 percent of eligible Iowans already are registered to vote.

The challenge, according to Drake political scientist Dennis Goldford, is whether Democrats can get their voters to the polls. Democratic participation dropped by 28 percent between the 2008 presidential election and the 2010 midterms, he said. Republican voting numbers dropped 14 percent and “no party’ fell 40 percent. The falloff in Iowa was similar between 2012 and 2014.

“So Democrats can talk all they want about a ‘resistance,’ but talk is cheap,” Goldford said. “The question is, will they get their voters to turn out for the midterms in November? Republicans — perhaps because they are older, less likely to move from state to state and city to city — take voting more seriously than Democrats and independents do.”

The big question about the midterm elections is what the no-party voters will do, said Chris Larimer, associate professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa.

“I always feel like we only get half the story because we know so little about the preferences and enthusiasm of no-party voters,” he said.

Whatever Indivisible and similar groups do to get Democrats and Democratic leaners to the voting booth could make a difference, Larimer added, because “because elections are less about persuasion and more about mobilization.”

The stability of the voter registration numbers with no apparent shift away from either the GOP or no-party suggests to Pate “there doesn’t seem to be a big pushback by voters whether against Trump or their congressman.”

“We’re not seeing any big anti-government movement,” he said. “But it’s still early.”