Mary Hansen | WGLT

Mary Hansen

Mary is a reporter at NPR Illinois and graduated from the Public Affairs Reporting program at UIS and received her BA in International Studies from American University. Previously Mary worked as a planning consultant and reported for the State Journal-Register where she covered city government.

Mary is a lifelong NPR listener since tuning into her home station WESA in Pittsburgh.

Gary Smith has worked at the grain elevator at Okaw Farmer’s Co-op in Lovington, Illinois, for forty years. On his desk sit two computer screens, where he tracks corn and soybean prices online at the Chicago Board of Trade.

As he explains, trade moves fast: “Just bam bam bam, and within a few seconds it could change a nickel or a dime against your favor.”

Farm towns in Illinois could get access to high-speed internet with the help of new federal funding.

Nine companies are getting nearly $100 million from the Federal Communications Commission to bring internet access to small towns in the state.

The commission this week announced the subsidies, which are funded from a service fee on most internet and phone bills.

Wisper ISP, based in Mascoutah, Illinois, was awarded the largest grant, $35 million, to connect nearly 9,000 homes and businesses in southern Illinois.

Farm towns in Illinois have been shrinking for decades, and the trend doesn’t show signs of reversing.

By 2025, rural counties with populations of less than 10,000 people will see 7.4 percent of their residents leave, while counties with populations between 10,000 and 25,000 will lose 5.4 percent. That’s according to projections from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, John Lucas and his granddaughter, McKenna, bet on Saber Rattler at the Fairmount Park Racetrack in Collinsville.

"If she wins this, it'll be the third race in a row she's won," says Lucas as they watch the horses round the final stretch of the track. Saber Rattler came in second.

Lucas has been visiting the track outside of St. Louis a few times a year since the 1980s, traveling across the Illinois border from O'Fallon, Missouri.

Lucas has noticed the steady downturn in fortunes for the track.

This is part of our election-year series, Money Machines, looking at campaign spending in the 2018 election. The first article can be found here.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on online shopping left two things clear – consumers who buy online will have to pay sales tax on more items, and some states will see more money from those online purchases.

Illinois will host what could be the most expensive race for governor in U.S. history. The huge increase in campaign spending raises a lot of questions about the rise of big money in politics. Between now and the election, Illinois Issues will examine the impact in a series we're calling Money Machines.

Talks to legalize sports betting in Illinois have heated up after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal ban last week.

As more retail chains shut down, cities across Illinois figure out what to do with millions of square feet of empty space.

As big box stores continue to close, some worry Illinois isn't ready for the changing economy.