Business and Economy | WGLT

Business and Economy

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.

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

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