Business and Economy

Town of Normal

The Town of Normal is hiring two consultants to help secure federal TIGER funding for a probable underpass beneath the tracks near Uptown Station. During GLT's Sound Ideas, Mayor Chris Koos told Mike McCurdy the Town's eventual application is not in competition with a TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant application from the City of Bloomington to fund the Hamilton Road extension project.

Patsy Lynch / FEMA

The Kankakee plant that once bustled with 3,000 workers building gas and electric stoves is coming down. A Chicago company has obtained a demolition permit to raze the 810,000-square-foot Kankakee Roper building on 35 acres on the city's west side. Roper moved its manufacturing plant to Georgia in 1982. General Electric Co. bought the company, and the Kankakee property, in 1987. A GE spokesman said the company has no plans yet for the property. The $1.38 million demolition should be complete by August. Buildings on the campus will be leveled to slabs and basements backfilled.

CIRA

American Airlines new flight from and to Dallas - Ft. Worth has begun service from Bloomington.

The Central Illinois Regional Airport says the non-stop flight joined two other flights on American to north Texas. It also links to a hub with more than 200 destinations in 26 countries.

The light will have a regular daily schedule arriving in Bloomington at 12:09 p.m. and then departing from Bloomington at 1:05 p.m. and arriving in Dallas at 3:24 p.m.
 

Careerlink

Many laid off Mitsubishi workers are still searching for new directions after the plant ended production last year.

Bernard Goitein / Bradley University

An economic analyst of the Peoria area says the present downturn in manufacturing employment is nowhere near comparable to the huge job losses of the 1980's.

Bernard Goitein / Bradley University

The fourth quarter snapshot of the Peoria economy is flat, according to the Center for Business and Economic Research at Bradley University.

Staff

Michael Keane says he viewed wind power as a "science experiment" when he was working his way up the corporate ladder following his graduation in accounting from Illinois State University in 1977.

Some twenty-five years later, he found himself as an executive at  Clipper Windpower, a firm that was one of the first to produce wind turbines so ubiquitous today.

Staff / WGLT

The College Avenue Kroger Grocery Store is preparing to move to Bloomington. The new location targeted is still on College, but on the east side of Veterans Parkway, opposite Meijer. The Bloomington City Council is considering economic incentives at their Monday meeting to facilitate the deal.

Workbench/Green Top Grocery

The organizers of what would be the community’s first co-op grocery story, Green Top Grocery, has to raise a total of $600,000 by February 29th. The organization still has about $450,000 to go. During GLT's Sound Ideas, Green Top Grocery Board Chair Melanie Shellito told Mike McCurdy, owner loans are continuing to come in at a steady pace.

Destihl

A Bloomington Normal Brewer is building a new $14 million production facility in north Normal. Destihl Brewery says it has plans for a 47,000 square foot facility north of Menards.

Homes Selling at Brisk Pace

Feb 17, 2016
Images Money / Flickr via Creative Commons

Low interest rates and comparably mild weather helped make the first month of 2016 strong in terms of home sales. Karen Stailey-Lander, president of the Bloomington-Normal Association of Realtors, says the closing of the Mitsubishi plant has so far not impacted the housing market.

Brad Basham Photography / bbasham.com and Town of Normal

Filling the hole in the ground in Uptown Normal may not be the only upcoming project for that district. During Mayor Chris Koos' regular Sound Ideas interview he told GLT's Mike McCurdy that developers are showing "active" interest in plots other than the property adjacent to the recently completed Hyatt Place Hotel.

Jeff Giebelhausen/Farnsworth Group

The developer presenting plans to the Bloomington City Council Tuesday said during GLT's Sound Ideas if he'd known two and a half years ago it would take so long, he wouldn't have gotten into it.

Jeff Giebelhausen told WGLT's Mike McCurdy that his youngest son is a freshman at Illinois Wesleyan and he's "vested in Bloomington."

"I believe in this project. I do believe in Downtown Bloomington. I believe the negatives are a very vocal group," said Giebelhausen. "I want to address their questions absolutely accurately, one at a time, and when the facts speak I think it's clear this is a good project for the city.

Congressman Davis Pushes Access Bill

Feb 5, 2016
Jim Browne / WGLT

Illinois Republican congressman Rodney Davis is pushing a bill that he says will provide a more open market for things like corrective lenses. During a tour of Identity Optical in Normal, Davis says the bill would allow companies like Identity Optical compete in markets where health care industries limit patient choice.

Pantagraph Owner Focuses on Lowering Debt

Feb 4, 2016
Karolina Grabowska / Flickr via Creative Commons

Despite a 7.2% increase in digital ad revenue for Lee Enterprises, the parent company of the Pantagraph, overall revenue fell 5% in the first quarter. In a quarterly release, Lee says other forms of electronic revenue also increased, with mobile ad revenue shooting up over 12%. Lee says just over 40% of those who subscribe to print papers are also E-paper subscribers. Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer Ron Mayo says over the past year, debt was reduced by $80.5 million, total debt for Lee now stands at $678-Million. Mayo says Lee will dedicate it's free cash flow to paying down debt.

Brian Mackey / IPR

Governor Bruce Rauner is expected to use his executive powers to sign an order to create a privately run and funded state economic development agency. He says the Illinois Business and Economic Development Corporation will help create jobs. The former businessman has pushed the idea since taking office.

Green Top Marks Milestones

Feb 1, 2016
Alexander Bazevanis / Facebook via Creative Commons

A thousand people are now owners of Bloomington's proposed "Green Top Grocery," and the co-op has raised over $900,000 this fall. That's the good news for the community grocery with an accent on local foods, and filling an existing food desert. Green Top spokesman Katie Novak says now the group needs to come up with $600,000. "If we don't raise the amount of money we need this spring, we'll have to turn back all of the funds we've raised so far to the owners who've given it to us.

Judith Valente

Three months after the Mitsubishi automotive plant in Normal closed, many workers are still struggling to find fulltime employment. WGLT has been checking in periodically with some of the those workers, like former car assembler Mick Hannah. Hannah has now found part-time work with a private Internet firm that monitors student content on school computers. But that job will end when the school year is over.

2 Illinois Nuclear Plants Get Extensions

Jan 29, 2016
Ben Jacobson / Flickr via Creative Commons

Exelon officials say the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved licenses for the Braidwood Generating Station southwest of Chicago for another 20 years. The plants, Unit 1 and Unit 2, have been operating since the late 1980s. The new licenses are valid through 2046 and 2047 respectively. They were originally issued through 2026 and 2027. Nearly 900 employees with a nearly $90 million payroll work at the site.

Illinois Department of Employment Security

The December unemployment rate rose by more than half a point in the Bloomington Normal area last month compared to a year ago. The December rate was was 5.4%. The Department of Employment Security says the Peoria jobless rate was seven percent, also a significant increase from last year.

Department Director Jeff Mays says many metro areas in the state took job hits. Both Peoria and Bloomington Normal had slight increases in the workforce over the 12 month period.

United Way of McLean County

It appears unlikely the annual McLean County United Way drive will hit its goal of raising 8% more in funds and resources than the most previous campaign, which concluded a year ago. During an appearance on GLT's Sound Ideas, campaign co-chair Scott Preston said about $3.5 million has been raised since the effort kicked off in August. The previous campaign raised over $4 million, but recently extra last-minute corporate gifts have been needed to make the goal.

Chauncey Davis / Creative Commons

An Illinois Wesleyan University Economist says estimates of the one to two million dollar a year economic benefit from the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts are probably fairly accurate. IWU Scholar Diego Mendez Carbajo says reality is probably somewhere in the middle. The one million dollar estimate comes from the Convention and Visitors Bureau and uses commercial modeling software. It does not include some potential effects of patron spending. The other estimate is from the group Americans for the Arts.

Brandi Michel / Facebook via Creative Commons

2015 was a good year for home sales in the Peoria area, right up until Caterpillar announced significant layoffs. Fourth quarter sales dropped noticeably.

Local Food Favorites Closing in the New Year

Jan 21, 2016

Sound Ideas Preview: 1/20/16

Jan 20, 2016

Alan Ferguson / Creative Commons

More homes sold in the twin cities in 2015 than during the previous year.. That's according to the end of year Bloomington-Normal Association of Realtors report.  Overall sales were up 5.6% last year from the year before. 2,780 transactions were recorded.

The price of existing homes that changed hands this past year was up slightly, .7%. New home prices dropped 1.4% from the previous year. President of the Bloomington-Normal Association of Realtors, Amanda Wycoff, says the currently low number of homes on the market, 622, means it's a seller's market.
   

New Flight Takes Off At CIRA

Jan 18, 2016
Adrian Pingstone / Creative Commons

The Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington is adding one flight a day between the Illinois twin cities to Dallas-Fort Worth Texas. The American Airlines flight will take off from CIRA begining March 3rd. The airport is coming off a rough year during which it experienced an eight percent decrease in passengers as Frontier Airlines discontinued Bloomington service to Denver and Orlando.

Union, Governor See Negotiations Differently

Jan 15, 2016
Jim Browne / WGLT

The rift between Governor Bruce Rauner and the state's public employee union has escalated. Rauner Friday morning announced he's asking the state labor board to decide if negotiations with AFSCME have reached an impasse. Just days ago, Rauner -- a Republican -- said his bargaining team is spinning its wheels. After many months and 67 sessions, he claims:

Supreme Court Could Determine Labor's Future

Jan 15, 2016

An Illinois State University labor expert says a case before the US Supreme Court over union dues paid by non-union employees would not directly affect private sector unions. The case is being pursued by some California teachers who say they shouldn't be force to pony up dues when the disagree with the union. ISU's Victor Devinatz says it has nothing to do with union politics.

Macy's To Close Peoria Store

Jan 6, 2016

Macy's has announced plans to close its store in Peoria's Northwoods Mall, one of 40 stores the department store chain is shutting down after reporting disappointing holiday sales. Cincinnati-based Macy reports sales fell 5.2 percent in November and December at existing stores. It is blaming warm weather and lower spending by international tourists. Macy's says it will close the Peoria store in the fall. The closing of the 165,000-square-feet store, which opened in 1985, will affect 62 associates. The retailer says it expects some may be transferred to other stores.

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