Business | WGLT


Illinois Delegation Heads To Cuba

Mar 16, 2016
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Three members of Illinois' congressional delegation will accompany President Barack Obama to Cuba this weekend.

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It's not difficult to pile up steep credit card debt quickly. What is difficult is paying that debt down. Willis Kern and Edgar Norton have some advice.

State Unemployment Up During January

Mar 10, 2016 / Flickr via Creative Commons

CHAMPAIGN- The Department of Employment Security says Illinois' unemployment rate rose again in January, reaching 6.3 percent.

The department's monthly report on Thursday also noted that U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revised December's figure upward to 6.1 percent rather than the originally reported 5.9 percent. The department said January unemployment was up .2 percent.

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As a federal spy agency weighs where to relocate in the St. Louis area, it now is being offered free land at two sites. Several top political leaders from the Missouri side of the region say 99 acres of no-cost land is now part of the effort to woo the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to north St. Louis. Illinois leaders are also offering free land near Scott Air Force Base and have pledged $115 million for transportation improvements. Two St. Louis County sites are also in the running.

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.

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HyVee Grocery stores including the one in Bloomington are recalling a brand of blue cheese because of potential unwanted bacteria.


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.

Simon Cunningham / via Flickr

Stock market volatility has been a regular occurrence, but lately the market has had more down swings than up. How should this effect the investor? WGLT's Willis Kern talks it over with Illinois State University Professor of Finance Edgar Norton.

Ralph Weisheit / WGLT

State Farm Insurance reported a $2 billion increase in net income in 2015, but much of that resulted from capital gains on stock investments State Farm has in other companies.

Net income for 2015 was $6.2 billion compared to $4.2 billion the previous year. State Farm spokesman Dave Phillips said the company benefited from its investment in the stock of companies that merged last year.

"Two mergers between four companies, specifically pharmaceuticals, and that helped with investment strategy and the investment profits of the company."

Green Top Grocery Co-op

Bloomington-Normal's start-up grocery store co-op has picked a veteran from nearby Champaign-Urbana to manage its store.

Michael Pennington spent the past five years as stocker, IT director and interim manager at Common Ground Food Co-op. He says he's impressed with the wide diversity of owners at Green Top.

"Not just individuals, but families, farmers, businesses and households, " Pennington said. "They want a change in their local food system."

Ralph Weisheit / WGLT

The Bloomington Normal Economic Development Council is readying its annual trip to Washington D.C. 39 members of various groups will pay their own way to the nation's capitol to meet with elected officials and agency workers about the priorities of the region.


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
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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.

Tax Tweaks For 2016

Feb 15, 2016

It's February which means it's time for the annual ritual of getting your taxes figured. That's the topic on Sound Money. WGLT's Willis Kern has more.

Former UAW President Ralph Timan
Charlie Schlenker / WGLT

Ralph Timan spent 27 years at Mitsubishi. Since the plant ended production a couple months ago, he says time has moved quickly. Even before the plant shut down, he started planning, doing some research on possible future plans. He wanted to go back to school and started the paperwork. He was notified January the 10th he could start the next Monday. He talks with Charlie Schlenker in one of our continuing series of interviews with ex-Mitsubishi workers.

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.

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.

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

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Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner says he knows why General Electric decided NOT to move its corporate headquarters to Chicago. Rauner says G-E wanted to move to Chicago for its access to O’Hare Airport, the area universities, and the city’s cultural diversity. And it wanted out of Connecticut - a state like Illinois in that it’s also been struggling with its finances and state pensions.


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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.

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:

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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Jobs, earnings and interest rates grabbed financial news headlines in 2015. WGLT's Willis Kern talks with ISU Professor of Finance Edgar Norton about the top 5 business stories of the past year.

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.

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."

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.

YoTuT / Flickr

2015 was a big year for news, and it also yielded some pretty big business news headlines. In this edition of Sound Money, WGLT's Willis Kern looks back at some of the top business stories of the past year. Today, it's the bottom 5 in a list of top ten, as compiled by Sound Money's Edgar Norton, Professor of Finance at Illinois State University.

Next time on Sound Money, hear which stories were the five biggest business stories of 2015.

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.