Business | WGLT

Business

Tim Evanson / Flickr

The Federal Reserve Board is often in the news and it's because they play a significant role in determining this country's monetary policy. But, just who makes up this important body? And why should you care about who they are and what they do? That's the topic on Sound Money. WGLT's Willis Kern has more.

LendingMemo.com / Flickr via Creative Commons

The Illinois Department of Employment Security says the jobless rate held at 5.4 percent in October but the state added jobs for the first time since spring. The department said Thursday in its monthly statewide unemployment report that the state added a net 14,400 jobs in October.

The total number of jobs in Illinois had declined for four straight months. Department director Jeff Mays said the state's job-creation still lags much of the country but noted the job growth was the strongest since February. The national unemployment rate for October was 5 percent.

MMNA, Inc.

Since the announcement that Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing in Normal would close, GLT News has been checking in to see how workers and their families are coping. Like most of the people working at the soon to close plant in Normal Jerry Harcharik faces uncertainty.

McLean County is trying again for an enterprise zone renewal. Last year's attempt did not gain approval from the Governor. On Monday, the Normal Town Council will take up the revised request. The existing enterprise zone formed back in 1982 to bring the Mitsubishi plant to Normal expires next June. All other units of government in the proposed zone must also sign off on the application.

The new plan includes local property tax abatements for prospective new businesses that create 50 jobs within the zone and involve more than $5 million in private investment.

Start Up Event Spawns Businesses

Nov 13, 2015
Jim Browne / WGLT

During an entrepreneurial event at the Uptown Normal Marriot, 18 businesses, and people who want to run a businesses pitch ideas to a group of judges.

The owner of the Pantagraph Newspaper in Bloomington is highlighting some financial results ahead of its fiscal year end reports next month. Lee Enterprises reports it cut fourth quarter costs more than revenue fell.

Total revenue was down 4.4% for the quarter ending in September. Cash costs dropped 7.8% or nearly $10 million. Lee says the decline in overall revenue is an improvement from the previous quarter.

For the full year, Lee has paid down nearly $79 million in debt. Its principal debt remains about $726 million.

OSF Healthcare

OSF Healthcare is raising the lowest wage it is paying workers to $10 an hour. That's $1.75 per hour higher than the minimum wage in Illinois. Kristin Williams is the OSF's Vice President for Compensation and Benefits. Williams says the move stems from the religious organization's social justice values.

She says the federal poverty line for full time workers with families was one of the guides used to establish the new minimum.

Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger has issued a one word response to the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. That word is "crazy." The Obama Administration has formally rejected the pipeline to carry Canadian oil into the U.S. after seven years of delays and deliberations.

Kinzinger's fellow Illinois Republican, Rodney Davis was more voluble in reaction. Davis represents part of Bloomington Normal and says it puts politics over people. Davis says instead of encouraging energy independence and job growth in that industry, the President placates his political base.

Urban Land Institute

One of top urban planners in the U. S. gives high marks to the way Normal planned its uptown redevelopment. Tom Murphy, former Pittsburgh mayor and now with the Urban Land Institute, says the neighboring Marriott and Hyatt hotels are obviously a part of a well-thought out plan.

Ronald C. Yochum Jr. / Wikimedia Commons

A leader in urban renewal says hotels can be useful tools in redevelopment efforts, but they need to be part of a larger strategy. As Mayor of Pittsburgh, Tom Murphy led an unprecedented redevelopment effort, relying on public-private partnerships. In this excerpt of a Sound Ideas interview, Mike McCurdy talked with Murphy, now with the Urban Land Institute, about Uptown Normal and Downtown Bloomington redevelopment efforts.

Champaign Urbana will take an employment hit over the next two years with the departure of the Kraft Food cheese making operation. Kraft Heinz announced a transition to dry and sauce production in Champaign and said there would be job losses, but declined to say how many. Kraft is currently the largest industrial employer in Champaign with 1,800 jobs.

Economic Development officials in the Champaign Urbana area say they were not notified in advance of the change and will be contacting Kraft Heinz.

Wilson Hui / Flickr via Creative Commons

Caterpillar has started laying off Decatur workers. Company spokeswoman Rachel Potts confirmed the employee notifications, but says the company won't be releasing the total number by location. In September, the Peoria-based manufacturer announced that it's planning another round of job cuts that could exceed 10,000 people through 2018. The company says it'll cut as many as 5,000 people mostly by the end of this year from its salaried and management workforce.

Illinois Reviewing Clean Air Rules

Oct 30, 2015

A spokeswoman for Gov. Bruce Rauner says Illinois environmental officials are working to abide by new federal power plant limits that are being challenged by more than two dozen other states. Rauner responded cautiously after the early August unveiling of President Barack Obama's much-anticipated Clean Power Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from domestic power plants.

The Illinois Department of Corrections says it will return five semi-trucks to a company that has walked away from a contract after the state failed to pay. The Larson Group agreed to six-year contract in 2010 to lease five trucks to the agency for $68,000 a year. The company decided to walk away from the contract a year early because the department owes more than $17,000. An IDOC offshoot called Illinois Correctional Industries used the trucks. IDOC spokeswoman Nicole Wilson says the agency is scheduled to return the trucks Thursday. Right now they are parked at a warehouse in Lincoln.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security reports the jobless rate dropped in September in all of the metro areas the agency tracks. But the department's director says job growth remains weak.

The Bloomington Normal unemployment rate is 4.3% down from 5% in September of last year. That's the lowest rate for September since 2007 when it was 3.9% in the twin cities. The metro area rate is the lowest in the state.

The Moody's credit rating agency has downgraded $26.8 billion in Illinois' general obligation bonds, saying the move was due to the state's weakening financial position during the year. In lowering the bond rating to Baa1 from A3, Moody's Investors Service said its expectation is that the ongoing stalemate on the budget due July 1 will lead to further deterioration of the state's finances.  

The lower a state's credit rating, the tougher, and more expensive, it is to borrow money.

Home sales in Bloomington Normal were up 21% last month from September of a year ago. The Association of Realtors also says through three quarters of the year, home sales are up 7.6%. Growth for the third quarter slowed from previous quarters this year. Third quarter sales increased just under 4% as the area absorbed news of the coming Mitsubishi plant shutdown.

The average price of a home sold has increased slightly for the year and for the month.

Sales of new homes remain a very small part of the total. All of the growth last month was in sales of existing homes.
 

A third consecutive overall index drop in a monthly rural bankers survey suggests an economic slowdown is ahead for rural parts of 10 Western and Plains states. The Rural Mainstreet Index sank to 44.4 this month from 49.0 in September and 50.0 in August. The overall index is computed from various economic category scores, and survey organizers say any score below 50 suggests that factor will decline.

Tribune Tower For Sale

Oct 9, 2015
Business2Community

Tribune Media says it's hired a real estate investment banker to explore the sale of its Tribune Tower, its headquarters that sits on three acres along Chicago's Michigan Avenue. Tribune Real Estate President Murray McQueen says the landmarked building is expected to attract interest from "a broad range of private and institutional investors and developers." The 36-story, neo-Gothic building houses the Chicago Tribune and other tenants. The building has 737,000 square feet, but the entire site is zoned for up to 2.4 million square feet.

Future Of Solar Power Bright

Oct 7, 2015
StraightUp Solar/straightupsolar.com

As politicians stake out their most advantageous positions on Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, some are staking out the most profitable positions. That includes coal mine owners, oil companies, and those interested in solar power. WGLT's Jim Browne has more with Shannon Fulton of StraightUp Solar in Bloomington, who is also President of the Illinois Solar Energy Association.

The CEO of Commonwealth Edison says the utility is continuing to push for changes that failed to win legislative approval in the spring. Anne Pramaggiore told an audience at the City Club of Chicago that a 20-11 so-called "smart grid" law has led to savings and a more reliable power network. But she says further improvements -- like microgrids that can keep electricity flowing when there's an outage, and charging stations for electric cars -- depends on help from Springfield.

Nearly two thirds of United Auto Workers at Fiat Chrysler voted to reject a proposed contract agreement with the company. The union says 65 percent of the membership voted against the pact.

The vote was a slap to President Dennis Williams who pitched the deal as a fair way to compensate workers yet keep the company competitive. Williams says in a statement that he doesn't consider the vote a setback because it's part of the contract process.

Flickr user Tyrone via Creative Commons

ConAgra Foods will receive an unspecified amount of Illinois tax credits in exchange for 150 new jobs in the state as it moves its headquarters from Omaha, Nebraska, to Chicago. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity confirmed Thursday that Con Agra will benefit from a corporate-recruitment tool that Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner put on hold in June amid an ongoing budget impasse with Democratic state lawmakers.

Deere & Co. says it has reached a tentative agreement with the United Auto Workers union, which represents 10,000 Deere employees at 12 factories in three states. The Moline-based manufacturer of farm equipment and other motorized gear announced the agreement Thursday. The new contract replaces a six-year contract that expired Wednesday at midnight. The new contract is for six years and will be voted on by union members.

Flickr user Gareth Simpson via Creative Commons

The NBC-TV affiliate in Peoria is being sold. Quincy Newspapers Incorporated has agreed to purchase WEEK-TV from Granite Broadcasting.

Federal Communications Commission approval of the deal requires ending a sales agreement between WEEK and ABC affiliate WHOI, and WAOE-My59. The stations will continue to share news staffs.

Quincy President and CEO Ralph Oakley says he looks forward to upgrading equipment and programming at the stations.

The sale is expected to close in about a month. The purchase price was not disclosed.

More East Peoria Caterpillar Layoffs

Sep 30, 2015

Caterpillar is placing 230 East Peoria workers on indefinite layoffs starting in mid-October.  The announcement brings the total layoff number at the East Peoria facility to 500 people since January.  The news comes a week after Cat announced it’s cutting as many as 10,000 jobs in the coming years as it pushes to reduce costs and address downturns in key markets.  Company spokeswoman Lisa Miller says the latest layoffs are in response to current market conditions to bring production in line with demand.

Flickr user Donnie Ray Jones via Creative Commons

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.

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.

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.

Pages