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The Mayors of DeKalb and Rockford responded to the statewide minimum wage hike that was signed into law last week. The measure will raise the state's minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. 

DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith worries about the effect this may have on small businesses. Smith says he would have preferred that the increase be done more incrementally. 

"I would have liked to have seen something that was written into law that mandated perhaps a one or two year step, and then let's take a look at it," he said. "You know, economies change."

"Dentist" by Flickr User Travis Wise / (CC X 2.0)

For some people, going to the dentist can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, regular dental treatment keeps teeth healthy. But at the same time, the sights, sounds and smells of a dental office can be unsettling for some. 

But which dentists you can access, and even afford, often depends on where you live.  

Chase Cavanaugh / WNIJ

Amazon is a leader in online shopping. It has warehouses across the country to sort and deliver its products. Recently, Amazon Air announced it will expand its delivery network into Rockford. 

Chicago Rockford International Airport is already a major hub for UPS. The airport also has maintenance facilities capable of repairing the world's largest aircraft. But Amazon took particular interest due to the airport's cargo operations. Director Sarah Rhoads says it's part of the retailer's "Middle Mile" network for two-day deliveries.

Chase Cavanaugh

Every fall, northern Illinois farmers set up roadside shops to get their crops to market, as well as get visitors to check out their farms. You can find several of these along a stretch of Lincoln Highway east of DeKalb.

One of the largest is Kuipers Family Farm in Maple Park. It has a pumpkin farm and apple orchard, plus a lot of family attractions. These range from train rides and corn mazes to climbing walls and a "bouncing pillow." Co-owner Kimberly Kuipers says these were inspired by taking their own kids to nearby farms.

Chase Cavanaugh / WNIJ

When you think of passenger air travel in northern Illinois, O'Hare often comes to mind. But Rockford's facility, officially known as Chicago Rockford International Airport, is making a greater name for itself, particularly in the realm of cargo.

In 1994, officials with United Parcel Service, better known as UPS, made a deal with airport authorities to set up a sorting hub. Since then, it's become the company's second largest air operation in the world.

Tronc.

Comedian John Oliver once said that was the sound of a stack of newspapers being thrown into a dumpster.

Now, the Chicago Tribune reports its parent company, Tronc, is changing its name back to Tribune Publishing.

Guy Stephens/WNIJ

Rochelle has leveraged its location, and resources like its municipal railroad, to spur a lot of business activity in its corner of Ogle County. Now it’s set to move into neighboring Lee County in a big way. 

Nippon Sharyo Plant In Rochelle To Close

Aug 16, 2018
WNIJ

It’s the end of the line for Rochelle rail car maker Nippon Sharyo. It appears the company is shuttering its Illinois plant.

In 2012, the announcement that the Japanese rail car manufacturer had selected Rochelle for its massive factory came with much fanfare. Japan’s ambassador to the U.S. Ichiro Fujisaki and then-governor Pat Quinn helped cut the ribbon at a celebration while Taiko Japanese drums thundered in the cavernous building.

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A storage safe manufacturer is closing two Chicago-area factories and moving operations to Mexico to counteract the effects of metal tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump's administration.

The Chicago Tribune reports Stack-On Products will lay off about 150 people at its Wauconda and McHenry plants when they close Oct. 12.

Human resources director Al Fletcher said Tuesday the decision to relocate operations to Juarez, Mexico, was made about two months ago. That's when Trump announced tariffs on numerous goods and materials from China as well as other countries.

Cargo Business Is Skyrocketing At RFD

Jul 24, 2018
Chase Cavanaugh / WNIJ

The Chicago Rockford International Airport is now the 22nd busiest airport in the nation for cargo volume. The airport rose from a ranking of 31st in 2016. Airport Executive Director Mike Dunn said Rockford has the necessary infrastructure to support both cargo and passenger operations.

“Well, it’s been a curious contemplation by myself and people at the airport to determine what would come or explode first at the airport -- the cargo operations or the passenger operations, and obviously, it’s the cargo operations,” Dunn said.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Fiat Chrysler Automobile announced Saturday that CEO Sergio Marchionne's health had suddenly deteriorated following surgery and that its board of directors had chosen Jeep executive Mike Manley to replace him.

Marchionne, a 66-year-old Italian-Canadian, joined Fiat in 2004 and led the Turin-based company's merger with bankrupt U.S. carmaker Chrysler. Manley, 54, had been heading the Jeep brand since June 2009 and the Ram brand from October 2015.

Victoria Lunacek

A vehicle produced in Belvidere has topped a new list of cars with the most American content. 

Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep Cherokee came in at number one on the list created by Cars.com. The website looked at which cars were manufactured in America, had the most American parts, and support the most American factory jobs.   

Sears Hometown Stores In Sterling, Plano Will Be Closed

Jun 11, 2018
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Sears Hometown Stores in Sterling, Plano and Moline will be closing during the current business quarter, the company announced over the weekend.

The websites for all three stores already are announcing “Store in liquidation” sales.

They are among “90 to 100” underperforming Sears Hometown locations remaining after 21 stores were closed in the previous quarter, President and Chief Executive Officer Will Powell said in the quarterly earnings announcement.

neindiana.com

A northern Illinois economic development group is working on what’s being called a “code of ethics” for its member communities.  They’re not alone. In this WNIJ Friday Forum, Guy Stephens looks at  codes that are being created and what they can mean to economic development.

Striking a balance between competing local interests to achieve a benefit of all long has been a mantra of regional economic development. No one involved seems to disagree. Still, it has been deemed necessary to “get it in writing.”

Rockford Will Lose Its Last Kmart Store In September

May 31, 2018

The East State Street Kmart in Rockford and four Sears stores elsewhere in Illinois have been targeted by Sears Holdings to close in early September.

The Kmart store on Sandy Hollow Road in Rockford closed in early April this year. A Kmart store formerly located at Riverside Boulevard and Forest Hills Road closed more than a decade ago and was replaced by a Sears Essentials store, which closed in 2011.

Chase Cavanaugh/WNIJ

The German Deputy Consul General of Chicago paid a visit to Rochelle Wednesday.  It’s the latest development in a trade mission initiated by Gov. Bruce Rauner with Germany and Poland.

Dr. Andreas Goetze was pleasantly surprised by the city’s infrastructure, particularly when it came to transportation, and said the visit fits well into the consulate’s work.

"Politics plays a certain role, because we can work on the framework for economic activities," he said.

Goetze says the visit is another part of his country’s involvement in the state.

A dozen department stores across northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin -- including the Bergners store at CherryVale -- may be closing soon following a federal bankruptcy auction held Tuesday.

A group of lienholders and two capital finance firms proffered the winning bid for the assets of The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc., which operates roughly 250 stores under the names in 23 states in the Midwest, upper Great Plains, and the Northeast.

Chase Cavanaugh/WNIJ

The president and CEO of Intersect Illinois spoke with members of the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation Thursday about how to bring new companies and projects to the state.

Intersect Illinois was established as the state's economic development organization in 2016. It works to entice companies into setting up shop in Illinois.

All companies need to find competent workers to fill their job openings. But sometimes, candidates don’t have adequate training or even an interest in taking the positions. A Rockford-area program is trying to help the local manufacturing sector solve both problems.

When Illinois companies complain that they can’t find new hires, a common explanation is that qualified workers have moved to neighboring states.

Chase Cavanaugh/WNIJ

Whether it's Steve Jobs building a computer in his garage or Hector Boyardee cooking pasta at the Plaza Hotel, many American brands and businesses start from humble origins.  Current start-ups seek to replicate that success, but they don't do it alone.

In this Friday Forum, WNIJ's Chase Cavanaugh discusses the groups that help northern Illinois small businesses get started.

Rock Falls Chamber of Commerce

The Rock Falls Chamber of Commerce is creating what it calls “collectives” – business people with specialized needs who gather to learn and share pertinent information as well as connect with like-minded peers and the community.   

Bethany Bland, President and CEO of the Chamber, said the collectives are a response to a trend she and other staff were seeing.

Chase Cavanaugh / WNIJ

This was a spectacular holiday season for the nation’s cargo carriers. The International Air Transport Association says 2017 was the busiest in seven years. It’s not just the big airports that are benefiting.

The Chicago/Rockford International Airport is reaping years of infrastructure investments and cargo-carrier courting. More than a billion pounds of cargo moved through the airport last year: That’s up about 50% from the previous year.

A plan is underway in Rockford to enable people who didn't graduate from high school to earn their diploma, and more. It addresses a nationwide problem: how to bridge the gap between the needs of business and the skill set of the available pool of workers. In this Friday Forum, WNIJ's Guy Stephens has more about Goodwill's Excel Center. 

Illinois Slashes LLC Fees To Encourage New Businesses

Dec 21, 2017
Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

Effective immediately, the fees for a popular form of small business in Illinois are significantly lower.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation Wednesday that substantially reduces startup, annual filing and other fees for limited liability companies (LLCs).

Pretzel City Kitchens will be open for free tours as part of an event at Wagner House.

The project to create a certified, commercial grade kitchen that would be open for community use began in earnest several years ago. Now, after much grant-seeking and traversing several hurdles, it’s almost ready to open for business.

Freeport City Manager Lowell Crow says Pretzel City Kitchens is an important part of the city’s hope for the future.

 

 

WNIJ

 

Rail car maker Nippon Sharyo's Rochelle plant is no longer part of a contract to build more than a hundred passenger rail cars for Illinois and California.  

 

Guy Stephens/WNIJ

Gov. Bruce Rauner has declared a “harvest emergency” across Illinois.

The designation means trucks carrying grain can exceed weight limits by 10 percent. Jeff Kirwan, with the Illinois Farm Bureau, says weather challenges have made for a unique harvest season.

“We have had good yields, but that also has brought about a lot of moving grain around," he said. "We have elevators that are struggling to get grain moved from their facility to a terminal, and this will allow them to be more efficient."

WNIJ Gas Price Monday, Nov. 6, 2017

Nov 6, 2017
Carl Nelson/WNIJ

The average Illinois price for a gallon of regular unleaded is $2.78. This is 29 cents more expensive than last week.

 

AAA reports that the most expensive gas is in the City of Chicago, at $3.11 per gallon.  The cheapest gasoline is in Davenport, at $2.60. 

Rockford’s average price is $2.70. This is 22 cents more expensive than last week.

Susan Stephens/WNIJ

The story of the nation’s largest case of municipal embezzlement finally hit the big screen in Illinois, with the debut of All the Queen’s Horses in Dixon.

The subject seemed irresistible for a filmmaker: a bottomless well of money, corruption at city hall, gold-plated extravagance -- and horses. But filmmaker Kelly Richmond Pope had another reason for being drawn to the story of Rita Crundwell, Dixon’s former comptroller who stole nearly $54 million from her hometown.

Chase Cavanaugh / WNIJ

The Chicago Rockford International Airport is touting the number of workers being sought to fill nearly 2,300 permanent and seasonal jobs with tenant companies.

That number is among the largest job-growth and economic-impact opportunities in the Rockford region in years, according to a news release from the airport authority. 

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