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State Farm HQ building
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.

Destihl

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
Images Money / Flickr via Creative Commons

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
www.efile.com

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.

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.

Steven Vance / Flickr

 

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.

 

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.
   

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.

Matthew Rutledge / Flickr

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.

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.

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.

Day Donaldson / Flickr

Next week, the Federal Reserve bank will meet and could raise the benchmark interest rate for the first time in seven years. That's the topic on Sound Money. WGLT's Willis Kern has more.

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.

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