Business

How Cedar Rapids not-for-profits view the Rockwell Collins acquisition

The company is a major donor of money, people and time in the area

Members of the board of YPN, including Ann Ruske (background center), Senior Director of Human Resources at Rockwell Collins Commercial Systems, meet at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. Rockwell Collins employees sit on the boards of not-for-profit entities across the city, and the company encourages community involvement ranging from mentoring youth to roadside cleanups. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Members of the board of YPN, including Ann Ruske (background center), Senior Director of Human Resources at Rockwell Collins Commercial Systems, meet at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. Rockwell Collins employees sit on the boards of not-for-profit entities across the city, and the company encourages community involvement ranging from mentoring youth to roadside cleanups. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Since he retired from Rockwell Collins in 2012, Jack Morio has done more than kick back and relax.

He worked with the React Center, which refurbished old business computers and gave them to schools, before it closed. He’s built wheelchair ramps with Rockwell Collins Retiree Volunteers, a group of former employees who work on community projects. Now, he delivers meals in town once a week through Meals on Wheels.

“I’ve been blessed by what I’ve gotten and accumulated. I think it’s important that I show my gratitude for that and help out and make the community better,” Morio, of Marion, said.

Morio, 65, is one of many former and current Rockwell employees who donate their time and money to Cedar Rapids not-for-profits. Their commitment comes on top of the dollars and involvement the company itself has provided to the area as a large player in Eastern Iowa philanthropy.

“There’s very few major community initiatives that they’re not involved in,” said Doug Neumann, executive director of the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance.

Even so, whether or how that commitment may change is one of the as-yet unanswered questions of the proposed acquisition of Rockwell by Farmington, Conn.-based United Technologies Corp.

The acquisition — expected to close as early as midyear — will mean new ownership for a locally based company and the potential for top-level executives to be relocated outside the state.

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While such a change would not equal the death of corporate donations, local leaders and site selectors have acknowledged the location of a corporate headquarters can drive strong community involvement.

For now, though, local not-for-profit leaders say they largely expect the company’s contributions to Eastern Iowa to continue, even if under the new moniker of Collins Aerospace Systems.

Rockwell Collins Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President Kelly Ortberg also has dismissed the idea his company or its acquirer will have less community involvement in Cedar Rapids or other cities.

“Could it change, perhaps. Will it go away? Absolutely not. I don’t think we’re going to see any major shift to our commitment to the regions we are located (in) today,” Ortberg said in a Jan. 11 interview.

‘TIME, TALENT, TREASURE’

Neumann described Rockwell as “a civic champion” that has donated money, time and leadership to projects around Eastern Iowa.

The company’s commitment has included executives serving on local boards; donations of money, furniture and computers to not-for-profits; funding for civic projects; and thousands of employee volunteer hours.

“We talk about time, talent, treasure in the nonprofit world,” said Phoebe Trepp, executive director of Willis Dady Homeless Services. “Rockwell devoted all three of those things to bettering the local community and is a major player in supporting social services.”

Neumann credited Rockwell for pushing forward various community growth initiatives as well. Diversity Focus, for example, a now-defunct effort to promote cultural awareness and inclusion in the metro, began because of a push by a Rockwell executive, he said.

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“That never would have happened had (then-Rockwell Chairman, President and CEO) Clay Jones not made it a personal initiative of his,” Neumann said.

Diversity Focus shut down in 2016 after 11 years.

Through its own not-for-profit, the Rockwell Collins Charitable Corp., Rockwell has given single donations ranging from $500 to as high as $1.1 million during the past five years to groups across the country, a review of Internal Revenue Service filings shows.

Receiving organizations in Iowa have included NewBo City Market, the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Junior Achievement of East Central Iowa and state universities, among others.

“This is their city, their nonprofit organizations that help support friends, family, neighbors. They have a vested interest,” said Amy Geiger, vice president of resource development for United Way of East Central Iowa.

Rockwell also has used a different entity to collect employee donations to local United Ways, with the United Way of East Central Iowa being the biggest recipient. Donations and event sponsorships make an impact to local social service providers.

“It may be $500 here or $1,000 here, but it adds up,” said Brian Stutzman, executive director of YPN, which provides resources to young parents. “They do tend to have a significant monetary amount they give. They are a big reason places like United Way are successful and then that trickles down.”

Rockwell dissolved the Charitable Corp. during its 2016 fiscal year. A company spokesman said it did so to have “more flexibility in the support of our communities globally,” as the Charitable Corp. only could donate to U.S.-based entities.

YPN’s Stutzman said board members who work at major employers such as Rockwell provide professional expertise and access to networks many smaller not-for-profits lack.

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Stutzman pointed to YPN board member Jairo Munoz, a Rockwell employee. A member of Rockwell’s Latino Employee Network, Munoz helped organize funding from the network to help pay training costs for 10 of YPN’s Juntas volunteers, even though half of them were not Rockwell employees.

“I think one of the key messages that our leadership within the company shares is, if we want to be successful, we need to help others succeed,” said Munoz, who also volunteers with Juntas to help Latino students academically.

Munoz said he does not expect Rockwell’s culture of giving back to change if the company’s headquarters leaves the city as it already encourages volunteerism at its locations outside Cedar Rapids.

Rockwell executives also serve on the boards for Willis Dady, Foundation 2, the United Way of East Central Iowa, Waypoint Services, the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, the University of Iowa Engineering Advisory Board, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cedar Rapids and East Central Iowa, an advisory council for the Cedar Rapids city manager, and more.

POTENTIAL RAMIFICATIONS

If the headquarters moves, the first likely loss in the area would be Rockwell executives, whom local leaders have acknowledged are key community contributors.

“Top executives do tend to be strong private contributors to charitable causes, no doubt about it,” Neumann said. “ ... But any nonprofit organization that has broad-based support is likely to be able to overcome a handful of supporters that are moving to another community.”


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Willis Dady’s Trepp said she realizes a relocation of Rockwell executives could mean a loss of highly skilled professionals who work with local groups.

“It would make an impact, especially related to board leadership,” Trepp said.

Morio, the Meals on Wheels volunteer, said he’s concerned Rockwell’s emphasis on local causes “will get watered down” if the headquarters moves elsewhere.

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“We know who we’ve got now, which is a company that’s been a leader in a lot of initiatives in the city. I guess we don’t know what the ramifications are in the future,” Morio said.

Even so, some not-for-profit executives said they are reassured by the expectation that Rockwell Collins 8,000-strong workforce in Cedar Rapids largely would be unchanged post-acquisition.

“I think the Rockwell Collins presence is going to remain strong in Cedar Rapids, and a lot of the charitable giving and engagement comes from individuals there,” said Les Garner, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation.

Ortberg said Rockwell and UTC view community stewardship as important because that helps employees engage where they live, which can boost job retention and work-life balance.

Asked for specifics on the company’s corporate responsibility priorities, UTC only provided broad strokes. Spokesman Brad Drazen said the company focuses on “STEM education, sustainable cities, military and veteran families, and vibrant communities.”

Drazen said in an email that the company has donated “tens of millions of dollars” and “thousands of our employees” have volunteered during the last five years.

“In short, at United Technologies, we believe that financial performance and corporate responsibility go hand-in-hand,” Drazen said.

Geiger said she has faith that the long history of Rockwell supporting United Way of East Central Iowa will continue, even if under a new name.

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“We also know that UTC is also a very good partner with United Way, that’s been evidenced in other communities where UTC is present,” she said.

YPN’s Stutzman said he’s not planning next year’s budget on hypotheticals.

“Whatever the powers that be at Rockwell determine to do, it will be something that is thoughtful of keeping an imprint in this community,” he said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8366, matthew.patane@thegazette.com; (319) 368-8516, makayla.tendall@the gazette.com

 

Rockwell Collins charitable giving

Rockwell Collins donated more than $20.7 million to U.S.-based organizations during five fiscal years through its Rockwell Collins Charitable Corp. Those donations do not include employee contributions or those made to international organizations.

The company’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30 of the following year.

l FY 2016 — $3.31 million

l FY 2015 — $3.85 million

l FY 2014 — $4.51 million

l FY 2013 — $4.53 million

l FY 2012 — $4.54 million

 

Top recipients

l FIRST, a youth science and technology organization — $4.35 million

l United Way of East Central Iowa — $2.23 million

l JK Group, a technology company that facilitates corporate giving — $2 million

l University of Iowa — $721,000

l Iowa State University Foundation — $569,000

Source: Internal Revenue Service filings

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