Business and Economy | WGLT

Business and Economy

Bill and Taylor
Emily Bollinger / WGLT

As Taylor Mathews lit the forge in his family’s metalworking shop in rural Bloomington, just behind him was an anvil from the ’80s. The 1880s.

PMP Fermentation Products is a company with some 50 employees operating on the Peoria riverfront, overlooking a public housing project and the RiverPlex Recreation Center.

State Farm HQ building
Staff / WGLT

Even with pandemic-driven refunds and rate decreases, State Farm made a lot of money in 2020.

The Bloomington-based company's annual financial report showed net income of $3.7 billion. That's well into positive territory, but down by more than a third from 2019. State Farm's net worth rose by 8.5%—thanks to stock market gains—to $126.1 billion.

State Farm HQ building
Staff / WGLT

Bloomington-based State Farm is raising Illinois auto insurance rates by an average of 4.2%. That's less than the nearly 14% drop last year because of reduced driving due to the pandemic.

The rate hike goes into effect March 29, according to a company statement.

Flickr user Elliott Brown / Creative Commons

Ameren Illinois and environmental groups are fighting over what is fair pay for solar power generators.

Elon Musk
Mark Lennihan / AP

The electric automaker Rivian already has raised billions of dollars from the likes of Amazon and Ford. Why would it want to go public?

Beer barrels stacked on shelves
Destihl Brewery

The pandemic didn’t slow Destihl Brewery’s growth in 2020 and the company is betting on 2021 being an even better year to make and sell beer.

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The COVID-19 pandemic is devastating many industries, but the real estate market is thriving in the Bloomington-Normal area.

Mid-Illinois Realtors Association President Brandon Shaffer said home sales were up more than 21% in 2020 compared with the previous year. Sales of new construction also set records, he said--up 24.5%.

That boom is not expected to slow any time soon, Shaffer said.

Help Wanted sign
Nam Y. Huh / AP

Bloomington-Normal lost about 5,600 jobs in 2020 and the McLean County employment base shrunk again in December after six consecutive months of gains after the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rivian truck
Megan McGowan / WGLT

The electric automaker Rivian has brought in another $2.65 billion in a new investment round as it prepares to begin production in Normal.

Women taking notes in front of computer screen
Jeff Chiu / AP

Have you ever wondered what the person on the other side of the screen thinks of your home during a Zoom meeting? Until now, a lot of us haven't.

Typically, December is a slow month for business travel at Central Illinois Regional Airport, but this year it was practically non-existent with airport director Carl Olson saying there was “no detectable business travel activity” the final month of 2020.

Chevy Volt
Megan McGowan / WGLT

An Illinois Commerce Commission member says regulators are ready and willing to work with utilities to smooth out the road toward vehicle electrification.

Kevin Bersett

A new year means new ideas, and Bloomington-Normal is generating some big ones.

Parking lot in front of hotel
Google Maps

Bloomington-Normal hotels saw a $25 million drop in revenue over the last year with the pandemic drastically reducing travel.

Exterior of a bank
Google Maps

Commerce Bank says its employee-funded political action committee (PAC) will no longer give money to members of Congress who have "impeded the peaceful transfer of power."

Empty highway
Jeff Chiu / AP

A consumer advocacy group wants auto insurers like State Farm to give back even more money to their customers who are driving less because of the pandemic.

SEC building
Andrew Harnik / AP

A Bloomington investment banking firm and its owner will pay $200,000 in fines for not telling its municipal bond clients about business practices that ultimately reduced the proceeds from their offerings.

Close up of damaged ceiling
WGLT file photo

The state has issued the first grant winners through a new community revitalization effort that includes Bloomington, Peoria and dozens of communities across Illinois.

Rivian truck in a parking lot

Don’t be surprised if you see Rivian vehicles—and even founder and CEO R.J. Scaringe—popping up more often around Bloomington-Normal in the coming weeks and months.

Town Center building in Bloomington
Google Maps

An agency that serves people with behavioral health needs in McLean County has received a donated building that it will use to house its recovery program.

Inside empty coffee shop
Emily Bollinger / WGLT

McLean County's retooled COVID relief program has approved its first round of business loans.

Bloomington-Normal restaurant owners who shirked the governor's executive orders say they're being painted as villains. But they argue they should've had a seat at the table when COVID-19 mitigations were being developed.

Peggy Parker standing in store
Peggy Parker

The pandemic has hurt many small businesses, but it's been especially tough for those that rely mostly on foot traffic. The pandemic has forced many mom-and-pop businesses to learn how to sell online.

The COVID-19 pandemic's blow to the labor force might not be as devastating to the Bloomington-Normal area as originally feared.

Phillip Taylor ( / Flickr / CC-by 2.0

Retirements have accelerated in the last year, as the pandemic closes businesses, cuts hours and puts workers at risk of contracting the novel coronavirus.

Ferrero sign at entrance
Eric Stock / WGLT

Bloomington will become home to an international candy maker’s first chocolate manufacturing center in the United States.

Ferrero North America has announced plans to build a $75 million expansion at its existing plant on Beich Road.

The company said the new 70,000-square foot facility will employ about 50 workers. Construction is set to begin next spring and take about two years to complete.

Exterior of State FArm HQ
Staff / WGLT

In Part 2 of their interview, State Farm senior vice president Annette Martinez talks to WGLT's Ryan Denham about the company's recent moves on diversity and inclusion. That includes the appointment of State Farm's first chief diversity officer over the summer.

front of old Bloomington Fire Station that is now a restaurant
Epiphany Farms / Facebook

Epiphany Farms Restaurant Group in Bloomington laid off more than 80 people Friday. Three of its four restaurants are effectively closed.

The insurance business is very competitive—and not just for customers.