Business and Economy

Top Business Stories of 2015

Jan 5, 2016

McLean County Board Chair Indicted

Jan 5, 2016
Jim Browne / WGLT

The head of the McLean County Board has been indicted in a fraud case.  Matt Sorensen is accused of using his position as an internal consultant at State Farm Insurance to collude with an outside firm to file phony invoices for consulting work never done. The indictment also alleges Sorensen steered State Farm work to fellow defendant Navdeep Arora a former partner at the firm of McKinsey and Company, who was arrested Sunday.

Power outages remain significant in much of central Illinois. About a third of Ameren Households are without power in Woodford County. The figure is 9% in McLean County and 15% in Peoria County. In McLean County about 5,000 Ameren Illinois customers are without electricity. Woodford County has about 3,500 Ameren households without power. Tazewell County has nearly 6000 Ameren households out of service, and Peoria County has more than 13,000 customers in the cold and dark.

The state budget standoff has scared away at least one hot prospect to buy the Mitsubishi auto plant in Normal. That's according to State Senator Jason Barickman. Barickman says the serious lead was a large Illinois manufacturer looking to expand. But, The GOP Senator says Illinois does not have a state budget, does not know when a budget might happen, and has no idea what the tax rate will be.

"That lack of predictability, the lack of stability that's offered to the business community is, I think, in sum, very detrimental to our efforts to attract a new Mitsubishi buyer."

Bloomington Normal unemployment rose in November, compared to last year. The Department of Employment Security says that is also true of the state as a whole. The twin cities jobless rate of 5.4% is up four tenths of a point. Illinois businesses lost jobs in eight metro areas and added positions in six cities including the Bloomington Normal labor market.

Home sales were down for November in Bloomington Normal by about 5% compared to the same month last year. The Association of Realtors says year to date sales remain up by the same amount, about 5%.

The comparison is also true for average prices, down several thousand dollars for the month compared to last year, but up slightly for the first eleven months of the year. The average price to buy a home a year ago in Bloomington-Normal was just over $169,000.  Last month that price was close to $166,000. In November of 2014 the average home price was $174,000.
 

Jim Browne / WGLT

The growing shift to on-line shopping is hurting bricks and mortar stores as consumers buy on-line, in part, to avoid paying retail sales taxes. Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, says Congress should pass the Marketplace Fairness Act. The bill would give states the ability to collect sales taxes for on-line purchases.

MMNA, Inc.

Though property tax receipts from the soon to be vacant Mitsubishi auto plant will likely take a hit for area governments, some public officials say they are hopeful home values will not go down much, if at all. About half the 12-hundred workers at the Mitsubishi plant live in Bloomington Normal. McLean County Board Chair Matt Sorenson says analysis suggests many will remain in town.

Unemployment Jumps Upward

Dec 17, 2015
Mike Licht / Creative Commons

State officials say the unemployment rate sharply spiked in Illinois in November as more people started looking for work. The Illinois Department of Employment Security said Thursday that the jobless rate jumped 0.3 percent to 5.7 percent in November. It was the first increase since July 2014. The national unemployment rate was 5 percent in November. The report showed a 5.1 percent increase in the number of unemployed people looking for work in Illinois, to 371,700. That happened as the state added a net 400 jobs.

How To Ensure Charitable Giving is Effective

Dec 17, 2015

Princeton Public Library

'Tis the season for giving. How can you be sure your charitable donations are really being useful? Princeton University philosophy professor Peter Singer lays out a strategy for what he calls "effective altruism." His ideas are being hailed in some circles, but causing controversy in others. WGLT's Judy Valente first reported this story for PBS-TV's "Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly."

The head of the McLean County Board says there have been "a very few" serious prospects for a buyer of the soon to be vacant Mitsubishi auto plant in Normal.

Matt Sorenson is one of the area leaders on the task force seeking a replacement for Mitsubishi. Speaking on GLT's Sound Ideas, Sorenson says central Illinois leaders are not the first stop.

Sorenson says he is aware that the task force is still cultivating prospects for new plant ownership.

Bloomington Normal By The Numbers

Dec 16, 2015

BN By The Numbers

Dec 16, 2015
BN Economic Development Council

Every quarter, the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council presents its "BN By the Numbers" luncheon, spot-lightling a segment of the central Illinois economy. This quarter's event, over the noon hour tomorrow in Normal, centers on the economic development region that is the Interstate 39 corridor extending north from Bloomington-Normal to the Wisconsin border and on east to the Chicago area. The keynote speaker is Roger Hopkins, a consultant and former economic development official in Dekalb and Dupage counties.

PGVA Planners

The City of Bloomington is continuing to move forward on a TIF district for the Empire Street corridor. Alderman voted 8-1 to schedule a public hearing for the district on February 8th. Mayor Tari Renner joined Mike McCurdy to discuss the Tax Increment Finance district, a new contract with the police union, and divesting golf courses to close a budget gap.

State Farm Insurance is raising its rates for auto coverage in Illinois. The 2.6% average hike goes into effect in February. It's the second time in less than 12 months State Farm has raised Illinois rates. April's increase was less than a percent. Even together, the two hikes are less than the increase most other insurers have announced. Allstate rates are going up 5.7%. Geico has increased auto premiums significantly as well.

Job Fair Draws Hundreds

Dec 11, 2015
Jim Browne / WGLT

Hundreds of people take advantage of a job fair at Heartland Community College for former Mitsubishi workers. Several businesses had booths up in the Jon Astroth Center, including NDE/NDT Solutions. Jeff Gaines is with the metal safety company, he says folks who are willing to travel and learn could find a new career with the company.

Unseen Sector in Bloomington Normal's Economy

Dec 9, 2015

Peoria Economic Report Shows Slow Growth

Dec 7, 2015
Bernard Goitein / Bradley University CBER

The new SCOPE, Statistical Composite Peoria Economy, report shows slow growth from a year ago but troubling signs ahead. Bernard Goitein of Bradley University is the author, he says the report does contain what at first seems a contradiction, more people are working compared to a year ago, but there aren't any more jobs.

LendingMemo.com / Flickr via Creative Commons

Changes are forthcoming to Illinois' unemployment insurance program. They’re expected to please both workers ... and employers. The measure on its way to the governor would make it easier for businesses to prove worker misconduct. That could decrease employer’s costs, by exempting them from having to pay benefits. Another part of the package advantages workers. No longer will an older, laid off worker see his unemployment benefit drop because he's on Social Security. The deal took months to negotiate, and was resolved ahead of an end-of-year deadline.

Home Prices Go Up

Nov 27, 2015

Home prices are on the rise in Illinois. IPR's Sean Crawford looks at the latest numbers.

 

A Bloomington Normal Brewery has won several national medals for its products. Destihl's Dosvidanya Bourbon Barrel-Aged Russian Imperial Stout won a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver and two gold medals at the Festival of  Barrel Aged Beers in Chicago. Destihl was competing against 363 beers from 157 different breweries and won Best in Show. The awards coincide with the commercial release of Dosvidanya today. Destihl is the first commercial brewery in the twin cities since Prohibition ended.

The Bloomington Normal unemployment rate edged under 5% last month. The 4.8% jobless rate is down slightly from a year ago. The Department of Employment Security says there were an estimated 4,800 unemployed people in the metro area looking for jobs. The last time the October rate was this low was in 2007 when it was more than a point below the current mark. There were job gains for the month in retail trade, and professional and business services and losses in government, construction, and manufacturing.

Supporters Cheer On Mitsubishi Workers

Nov 24, 2015
Mike Matejka

As the sun sets on production at the Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing in Normal, supporters of the workers gathered to demonstrate their gratitude in a community recognition event. Jeff Woodard of the McLean County Museum of History was among them.

MMNA, Inc.

Kent Ferguson has been looking for a job. He's one of the Mitsubishi workers losing his job with the end of production at the plant in Normal. As part of GLT's coverage of the plant transition, Charlie Schlenker visited again with Ferguson. He has interviewed in several places, a tool making test to gain entry to a pool of applicants for Harley Davidson in Menominee Falls, Wisconsin, interviews in Chatanooga, Urbana, Tesla in California, really all over the place. Kent's experience shows that in manufacturing, as in any profession, your skill set matters.

Judith Valente / WGLT

In the months since Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing announced that it is closing its plant in Normal, GLT News has been checking in with three longtime employees to see how they, their families and fellow workers are coping. On Tuesday, production line worker Mick Hannah will assemble the final Mitsubishi Outlander sport vehicles at the plant.

E2 Owners Resentenced

Nov 20, 2015

The two owners of a Chicago nightclub where 21 people were crushed to death in a stairwell in 2003 have been sentenced to two years of probation. Cook County Circuit Court Associate Judge Daniel Gillespie also ordered Calvin Hollins Jr. and Dwain Kyles to perform 500 hours of community service.  

Hollins and Kyles thanked the judge for the sentence during Friday's hearing. The two had originally been sentenced to two years in prison, but an appeals court threw out those sentences in 2013 and ordered them resentenced.  

LendingMemo.com / Flickr via Creative Commons

The Illinois Department of Employment Security says the jobless rate held at 5.4 percent in October but the state added jobs for the first time since spring. The department said Thursday in its monthly statewide unemployment report that the state added a net 14,400 jobs in October.

The total number of jobs in Illinois had declined for four straight months. Department director Jeff Mays said the state's job-creation still lags much of the country but noted the job growth was the strongest since February. The national unemployment rate for October was 5 percent.

MMNA, Inc.

Since the announcement that Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing in Normal would close, GLT News has been checking in to see how workers and their families are coping. Like most of the people working at the soon to close plant in Normal Jerry Harcharik faces uncertainty.

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