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Business and Economy

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The owners of Illinois' horse race tracks say the industry is struggling to survive, but key players diverge on how to salvage the industry. As Amanda Vinicky reports ... decisions by a state board Tuesday could determine tracks' fate.

Mitsubishi Motors North America

Mitsubishi Motors and the UAW Local at the plant in Normal have extended their collective bargaining agreement another couple days. The contract had been set to expire at Midnight on the 29th, but will now run through October 1st. The two sides are negotiating even as Mitsubishi prepares to end production at the plant in November. It is the second extension. The original contract expired at the end of August. The company is seeking a buyer for the facility in hopes of salvaging about 1,200 jobs there.

Illinois Hosts Dairy Tour

Sep 29, 2015

Illinois officials are hosting visitors from nearly 20 countries which are potential milk buyers. Representatives from the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Nepal and Thailand are among those participating in this year's Illinois Dairy Tour. The event began Monday at Rolling Lawns Farms in Greenville. It was there that in 1915 one of the state's first Holstein cows was registered. Warren Goetsch is acting director of the Department of Agriculture. He says Illinois is 22nd in the nation in producing milk, and the Dairy Tour is a key part of the state's marketing plan.

LendingMemo.com / Flickr via Creative Commons

Bloomington-Normal's unemployment rate declined last month compared to a year ago. The Illinois Department of Employment Security says the jobless rate dropped 1.2% to 4.5%.

That remains the lowest metro unemployment rate in the state. Peoria's rate went from 7 to 6%, but the area lost 2,600 jobs. Other areas seeing job losses last month were the Illinois side of the Quad Cities, Springfield, Kankakee, Decatur and East St. Louis.

Department Director Jeff Mays says that a portion of a decline in unemployment rates occurs when people drop out of the labor force.

Caterpillar Eliminates 10,000 Jobs

Sep 24, 2015

Buffeted by poor sales, Peoria based Caterpillar says it'll reduce its workforce by 10,000 by the end of 2018, with nearly half of those jobs being eliminated by the end of this year. Rachel Potts, spokesperson for the heavy equipment manufacturer, says the jobs will come from throughout the company:

"We are contemplating restructuring actions that could impact more than 20 facilities, and we are not saying specific locations today we are looking at those facilities around the world."

IPR's Brian Mackey

Labor unions are going on the road to make their case against Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s pro-business agenda. The latest in a series of events took place in Springfield. IPR's Brian Mackey has more.

Unionized workers in several state agencies were set to lose their jobs in a week. But they'll keep them, at least for awhile longer. IPR's Amanda Vinicky reports.

Governor Bruce Rauner's office confirms: layoffs of unionized state employees are on hold. That's due to a lawsuit filed by a trio of unions.

"While it's within the authority of the governor to initiate a layoff, under the contract they can only do so for a legitimate reason." Anders Lindall is the spokesman for AFSCME, which represents some 107 workers affected by the news.

The head of the effort to rescue use of the Mitsubishi Plant says there have been some nibbles on a buyer. Kyle Ham heads both the Economic Development Council for Bloomington Normal and the Mitsubishi Task Force.

"I am personally aware of automakers that are looking at the facility and have begun to do the due diligence process."

Ham says the plant has not been on the market that long and possible buyers have a lot of work to do.

Durbin Backs Oil Pipeline

Sep 21, 2015
Enbridge LLC

A crude oil pipeline through central Illinois south to Patoka in Marion County, sees inevitable, despite concerns about the effect of a spill on creeks in McLean County. And the pipeline has a supporter in the US Senate, Democrat Dick Durbin. During a recent visit to Bloomington-Normal, the senior senator says the pipeline is the lesser of two evils. He says transporting the oil on trains has proven dangerous, and points out the state is already criss-crossed with existing oil and natural gas lines:

Illinois' unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent in August but state officials point out that the number of people with jobs also declined. The Illinois Department of Employment Security said in its monthly report on statewide unemployment Thursday that the jobless rate fell from 5.8 percent in July. Nationwide unemployment was 5.1 percent in August. The department said Illinois lost a net 900 jobs in August. The number of unemployed workers fell 3 percent to 362,500. Department director Jeff Mays said the figures indicate many people continue to leave the workforce.

Home Sales Slow Seasonally

Sep 16, 2015

More homes are changing hands compared to a year ago, according to the latest twin city numbers. So far this year, 1,911 homes sold. That's up more than a hundred from a year ago. The increase is nearly 6%.  Amanda Wycoff, president of the Bloomington-Normal Association of Realtors, says inventory on the market is shrinking.

The price of a new home is about $325,000. That's a price decline of about 7% from a year ago. The price of an existing home is up slightly.

Pumpkin Crop "Disappointing"

Sep 15, 2015
Libby's

A large canned pumpkin manufacturer says yields in Illinois appear to be less than anticipated this year. Roz O'Hearn is corporate and brand affairs director for Libby's, which grows most of its pumpkins in central Illinois. O'Hearn says the yield could be off by as much as a third, and the company is disappointed. O'Hearn says weather could further reduce yields. The harvest is underway now through October or early November. However, O'Hearn says the company thinks it will have enough pumpkin to meet fall holiday demand. Libby's has run a processing plant in Morton since 1929.

Peoria Economy Grows, Slowly

Sep 8, 2015

Second quarter growth returned the Composite Index of local business and economic conditions to year earlier levels and cut the unemployment rate to 5.5%, on par with the rest of the nation. That's what the latest Peoria Area Economic Index shows. The index, from the Bradley University College of Business, tracks 30 economic indicators in it's quarterly assessments. Bernard Goitein is the chief author of the report. He says the unemployment rate is 1.3-percentage points lower than in the previous quarter.

Delays Keep Market Street Closed

Sep 3, 2015
cityblm

Twin city drivers anxious to begin using West Market Street again following railroad trestle work will have to wait a bit longer. The rail upgrade was originally supposed to begin in the fall of 2014, but was repeatedly delayed. Work by Union Pacific, owner of the tracks, finally began this spring and completion was estimated for Labor Day. Now it looks more like Halloween, maybe. Bloomington City Engineer Jim Karch says one reason for the delay is a change the city sought to increase visibility by employing a 'sloped wall,' replacing the old vertical retaining wall:

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