Economic Development | WGLT

Economic Development

Ralph Weisheit

The Normal Town Council approved $606,000 to renovate the former Sprague's Super Service fuel station along Route 66. Former Illinois State University professor and Route 66 Scholar Terri Ryburn, who is selling the building to the town, said she'll be happy to see this property develop.

Normal To Consider Fixing Up Route 66 Attraction

May 15, 2016
Staff / WGLT

A fuel station first built in the 1930’s along Route 66 in Normal could be fully restored by the town. The Normal Town Council will consider whether to spend $606,000 to purchase the property, make improvements to the building, and replace the parking lot.

Michael Allen Smith / Creative Commons

Count the McLean County Chamber of Commerce and the Bloomington Normal Economic Development Council among the interest groups on board a proposed sales tax sharing agreement in the twin cities.

Charlie Schlenker / WGLT

The head of the Mitsubishi Auto plant in Normal said this has been his most difficult year of more than four decades in the auto industry. The company laid off most of its workforce last year and the final hundred plus workers at the facility will lose their jobs at the end of the month.

Staff / WGLT

Illinois State University contributes about 7.5% of the McLean County. Hasan Mohammedi of ISU's economics department is one of the people who did a study that also shows direct and indirect employment from the University topping 8,900 jobs.

Ralph Weisheit / WGLT

The task force working to find a buyer for the former Mitsubishi auto manufacturing plant is continuing to field inquires. An upcoming trip to an international industrial trade show in Germany could increase interest.

Ralph Weisheit

Some Bloomington and Normal staff and elected officials have discussed the possibility of establishing a sales tax zone that would encompass both communities. One mayor said talk about talks is premature.

Staff / WGLT

Bloomington Alderman Scott Black says “engaging the public is key” in moving forward with economic development projects. The City Council passed a resolution approving a contract to purchase the former Mennonite Hospital for $1.4 million, which formerly housed Electrolux on Main Street north of downtown.

Black said he’d love to see a development go into the Electrolux property that will benefit the tax payers in the long term.


Many laid off Mitsubishi workers are still searching for new directions after the plant ended production last year.

Workbench/Green Top Grocery

Enough funds from an owner loan campaign have come in to ensure ground will be broken on Green Top Grocery's planned store on East Washington street in Bloomington this spring.

That's according to the grocery co-op's board president, Melanie Shellito. She told WGLT News the campaign remains short of the $1.5 million goal the day after the deadline, but she said more than 150 new owners have come on board in the last few days to raise the owner total to 1,150.

Bloomington Back In Black

Feb 22, 2016
Michael Hill / WGLT

Bloomington Aldermen heard next year’s budget proposal from City Manager David Hales and Finance Director Patti-Lynn Silva. The plan includes $207 million in spending, with $9.7 million coming from the sales tax increase passed last year. The proposal also eliminates the $7.5 million structural deficit projected last year.

Staff / WGLT

The College Avenue Kroger Grocery Store is preparing to move to Bloomington. The new location targeted is still on College, but on the east side of Veterans Parkway, opposite Meijer. The Bloomington City Council is considering economic incentives at their Monday meeting to facilitate the deal.

Workbench/Green Top Grocery

The organizers of what would be the community’s first co-op grocery story, Green Top Grocery, has to raise a total of $600,000 by February 29th. The organization still has about $450,000 to go. During GLT's Sound Ideas, Green Top Grocery Board Chair Melanie Shellito told Mike McCurdy, owner loans are continuing to come in at a steady pace.


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.

Bloomington Council Considering Downtown Project

Feb 16, 2016
Michael Hill / WGLT

The Bloomington City Council may participate in the development of a hotel and conference center downtown. During a committee meeting, aldermen informally supported an inducement resolution, which is usually the first step in issuing bonds.

Jeff Giebelhausen/Farnsworth Group

The developer presenting plans to the Bloomington City Council Tuesday said during GLT's Sound Ideas if he'd known two and a half years ago it would take so long, he wouldn't have gotten into it.

Jeff Giebelhausen told WGLT's Mike McCurdy that his youngest son is a freshman at Illinois Wesleyan and he's "vested in Bloomington."

"I believe in this project. I do believe in Downtown Bloomington. I believe the negatives are a very vocal group," said Giebelhausen. "I want to address their questions absolutely accurately, one at a time, and when the facts speak I think it's clear this is a good project for the city.

Brian Mackey / IPR

Governor Bruce Rauner is expected to use his executive powers to sign an order to create a privately run and funded state economic development agency. He says the Illinois Business and Economic Development Corporation will help create jobs. The former businessman has pushed the idea since taking office.

Ron Frazier / Creative Commons

Attendance at the David Davis Mansion in Bloomington fell by nearly 3,000 people last year. The State Historic Preservation Agency has released figures showing the site drew 56,631 visitors in 2015. That's a decline of nearly 5%.


Hundreds of middle class jobs exited the Bloomington Normal community with the end of production at the Mitsubishi plant in Normal and in announced Caterpillar layoffs.

Ralph Weisheit / WGLT

The Mayor is touting economic development, infrastructure improvements, and Downtown Bloomington in his annual State of the City address. Mayor Tari Renner joined Mike McCurdy during Sound Ideas to talk more about the State of the City, which he says “is strong.” He says one of two current downtown redevelopment proposals could be dead. However the other could bring more improvement to downtown. And despite Mitsubishi ceasing production, he says there was lots of other positive economic news in 2015.

Details Lacking On Downtown Hotel Proposal

Jan 12, 2016
Devyn Corp., Tarter Construction, Farnsworth Group

Bloomington's Mayor says without additional information, one of the two proposals for a downtown hotel is dead.

Developers David Bentley of Bloomington and Jeff Giebelhausen of Peoria have floated separate plans for a downtown hotel. During an appearance on GLT's Sound Ideas, Mayor Tari Renner says Bentley hasn't responded to consultant requests for more information about his plans to transform the Pantagraph into a boutique hotel.

Cardosi Kiper Design Group

The Town of Normal Council approved tax rebates for a developer working to revitalize a north Normal hotel. Mayor Chris Koos joined WGLT's Mike McCurdy to talk about the hotel, the Community Investment Plan, and Uptown Normal signage.

Bloomington Council Approves Housing Development

Nov 24, 2015
Michael Hill / WGLT

 A 5 to 4 vote from the Bloomington City Council favored a development of 68 residential units on Ekstam Drive near the Central Illinois Regional Airport. People living in Bloomington’s Ward 3, where the property is located, opposed the measure by contacting their alderman Mboka Mwilambwe. 

Devyn Corp., Tarter Construction, Farnsworth Group

David Bentley has been active in downtown Bloomington for 20 years, buying property, rehabbing it, and running it. His latest proposal includes developing the Pantagraph building into a boutique hotel. Bentley tells GLT's Charlie Schlenker he partnered with the city in 2007 and 2008. He agrees with Mayor Tari Renner that a downtown hotel will help the coliseum as it has the economy in Uptown Normal.

The city working with consultants SB Freidman to vet a proposal from Bentley's Devyn Corporation and Jeff Giebelhausen plan for the Front and Center block.

Todd Ryburn / Wikimedia Commons

The Bloomington City Council voted to contribute $50,000 over the next five years to the McLean County Museum of History's $3 million capital campaign. During his regular Sound Ideas interview, Mayor Tari Renner said the museum is of strategic importance in future, possible downtown redevelopment plans.

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.

A minor point of philosophy turned into a change in how the McLean County Board supports the B-N Advantage economic development program. Instead of that specific program sponsored by the Economic Development Council, Board Member Paul Segobiano said it was important to change to support the "concept" of development.

The report contains items like an east side highway project and a downtown Bloomington Hotel. Kyle Ham of the EDC said the language change was unimportant.

Bloomington Council Hears From Developers

Oct 19, 2015
Michael Hill / WGLT

Developers are looking at investing in downtown Bloomington, with help from the public sector. Bloomington Aldermen heard from Jeff Giebelhausen and David Bentley during a committee meeting. Each developer had a different proposal for the area. 

MacArthur Foundation

An Illinois Wesleyan University graduate is among this year's MacArthur "genius" award recipients. One of the $625,000 fellowships goes to Juan Salgado. He's a community organizer in Chicago who runs the Instituto del Progreso Latino. That group tries to boost English language skills for Latinos to make upward mobility easier, particularly in healthcare and manufacturing. Salgado says urban development to him means growing human talent, not bricks and mortar.