Business

 

This week, some employers are having difficulty reopening their businesses because many workers don't want to come back.  While there are health concerns, it also comes down to dollars and cents.  

Self-testing for COVID-19 could play a key role in fully reopening the economy.  But what are the concerns?  

Also, most rural hospitals have faced challenges preparing for the pandemic, even as they've seen fewer cases of the coronavirus disease. 

Those stories and more on this episode of Statewide.

Our lineup:

Sarah Jesmer

Fargo Skatepark & Skateshop in DeKalb needed to pivot. Their shop was temporarily shuttered and their income slashed in half. But, even with stay-at-home orders, skateboarding itself isn’t outlawed.

So to stay in business -- and stay true to the DIY feel that runs deep in skate culture -- they started building and selling ramps so social distancing skaters can practice in their driveway.

Ariel Ries is the owner of Fargo. She says someone even installed one in their kitchen.

Pixabay

Small businesses across the country deemed “non-essential” are struggling.

Cindy Abel says this is the most difficult time she’s had as a small business owner. She’s the owner of Canine & Abel Dog Grooming in Rockford and Pecatonica. She has been grooming dogs for 50 years and has had a storefront for 30.

Business had slowed to a crawl even before Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order forced them to close both of their locations. She’s spent the last few weeks calling clients, canceling and trying to reschedule through an uncertain future.

Guy Stephens

The second season of legal hemp growing is coming in Illinois. State experts are sharing what they know -- and don’t -- as more people express interest in growing it. 

Guy Stephens

Aurora’s downtown is transforming into what some are calling an “arts district.” 

Melissa Mercado is the executive director of the Fox Valley Music Foundation. It runs The Venue, a performance space located in the heart of downtown Aurora.

The Venue opened in 2019.  Mercado said the atmosphere of the 200-seat listening room is casual. Most sit around tables, and food and drink are available, and the offerings are intentionally eclectic.

Peter Medlin

This week on Teachers’ Lounge, we take a look at the science behind brewing with DeKalb High School biology teacher, Steve Byers. He’s also the owner and brewmaster behind the new Byers Brewing Company in downtown DeKalb. Byers talked with Peter about how he got started brewing in college trying to recreate his favorite discontinued beers. They also discuss how he manages running a small business, being a full-time teacher, oh, and he has a new baby!

Andrew Heiserman

Barsema's closet is a pop-up resale shop that provides Northern Illinois University students with casual and business professional clothing, plus accessories such as padfolios and briefcases.

It was created for the university's business students, but co-founder Emma Stettner says they realized this is a problem affecting all students.

Wisconsin Department of Transportation

Wisconsin could make billions of dollars if the state started charging tolls for drivers to use its interstate highways. That’s according to a recent study.

Illinois Department of Employment Security, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The unemployment rate in many northern Illinois counties fell from last year. 

Rockford’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.8 percent last month -- down from 7.4 percent in November 2015. That’s according to preliminary figures released last week by the Illinois employment security department and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Freeport Launches New "All In" Brand Campaign

Nov 16, 2016
Collaborate Freeport

“All In” – that’s the main concept for a new brand campaign Freeport recently launched.

The idea is to create a story unique to the Freeport and Stephenson County community – with the help of residents – and use that story to spread that brand inside and outside of the city and county.

Carl Nelson/WNIJ and Screenshot of the livestream

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed an executive order Monday to create the Illinois Competitiveness Council, which will review numerous state regulations -- particularly those that pertain to private enterprise.

Rauner believes state rules stand in the way of entrepreneurs who want to develop and expand their business.  

"Over the last 15 years, Illinois has added 5,000 pages of legislation, thousands of new rules and regulations," Rauner said. "Now, many of these rules and regulations are well-intentioned, but they have unintended consequences that do more damage than good."  

DONE IN COLLABORATION WITH SUMMER 2016 DATA VISUALIZATION COURSE, DEPARTMENT OF COMPUTER SCIENCE, NORTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY (APARAJITA DESHPANDE)

The council voted 6-1 earlier this week to put a hold on issuing licenses until mid-March.

This comes as aldermen plan to discuss regulations of gaming facilities, such as the distance between two locations. 

DeKalb Mayor John Rey says a third license was approved just before the halt.

“And I think it made sense for us to deal with those that were already applied, but to offer a moratorium until city council has an opportunity to think through the ongoing guidelines for video gaming establishments in the community," Rey said.

    

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

A village official in Cary says America’s first drive-through-only Burger King that opened last week may be a game changer – for the community and restaurant chains.

The fast-food chain approached the Cary village board last year with the drive-through-only concept as a solution for working with more challenging development sites. That’s according to Brian Simmons, the village’s community development director.

done in collaboration with summer 2016 data visualization course, Department of Computer Science, Northern Illinois University (Mohammed Jaffer Ali)

Video gaming machines have been popping up in Illinois bars and restaurants for nearly four years. For the most part, the increase in gaming machines and in revenue across the state has been steady.

Database: Check revenue reports in your community

There are nearly 24,000 video gaming machines in Illinois, and the amount played over the last few years is in the billions of dollars -- with a b. 

CASS HERRINGTON / PEORIA PUBLIC RADIO

Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced a $25 million federal grant for the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center in Peoria Thurs. The aim is to help local manufacturers compete in a rapidly changing industry.

The Peoria-based consultant advises and trains manufacturing companies on ways to increase profits, sustainability and cost-savings. The bulk of IMEC’s clients are small to mid-size companies. That’s why Democratic Senator Durbin says the funding will help give small businesses in Illinois a leg-up in the tech-driven, global market.

Institute of Government and Public Affairs, U of I

A monthly snapshot of the state’s economy shows growth in December was the slowest it has been since spring of 2013.

Fred Giertz, who compiles the index for the University of Illinois’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs, says it’s possible the state budget impasse contributed to the economic slowdown. He says it probably hasn’t played that big of a role so far, because the state is collecting less in taxes, leaving more money in consumer’s pockets, while at the same time not cutting back on spending.

Illinois Department of Employment Security / AP/WNIJ News

Unemployment dropped in most of Illinois' metro areas in November but most areas also lost jobs over the past year.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security said Wednesday in its monthly metro-area report that the jobless rate dropped in 12 metro areas last month, stayed the same in one and dropped in one.

The lowest rate was 5.2 percent in Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights. The highest was 7.7 percent in Danville.

Senate.gov

Consumers may like the ability to shop online and avoid paying state and local sales taxes, and many online retailers may like the competitive advantage the arrangement provides them over “bricks and mortar” businesses across the country; but U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. says the situation has a significant price.

“It’s really not fair to say to that store down the block that’s paying rent and paying property taxes and collecting sales tax [that] we’re going to put them at a disadvantage to their Internet counterparts,” Durbin said.

Good News On Illinois Job Front

Dec 14, 2015
ADP Research Institute

Non-farm jobs increased in Illinois during November.

Illinois added 6,200 private-sector non-farm jobs during November, according to the ADP Regional Employment Report. That’s more than any of the other five Midwest states.

Wisconsin added only 2,540 jobs last month.

The bad news is that the November Illinois growth is 580 jobs lower than the six-month average … but Wisconsin’s number dropped 1,140 jobs below that rolling average.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

As we enter the holiday season, many workers are thinking about the extra days off. 

The State Chamber of Commerce keeps tabs on paid holidays by employers across the state. The average number of paid holidays in Illinois comes in at nearly nine days a year with an average of nearly three personal paid days thrown in.

Looking ahead to the next year, nearly 98 percent of employers will give paid holidays for New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day … along with Thanksgiving.

Artwork provided

The multi-purpose indoor athletic facility under construction in downtown Rockford got a financial boost and a new name Thursday, thanks to UW Health.

What originally was called the Downtown Sportscore now will be known as the UW Health Sports Factory.

The parent company of Rockford’s SwedishAmerican Health System will pay roughly $1.9 million over a 10-year period to have its name and logo emblazoned on the building and various associated materials.

Clean-Up For Canadian Pacific Train Derailment Continues

Nov 9, 2015

Contractors for Canadian Pacific Railway are working to clear more than a dozen derailed train cars in southern Wisconsin after hundreds of gallons of crude oil spilled from one tanker.

Watertown fire chief Gregory Michalek said Monday that residents who evacuated dozens of homes following the spill a day earlier cannot yet return home as cleanup continues.

Thirteen of 110 cars derailed in Watertown Sunday afternoon. It’s the second derailment in Wisconsin in two days.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

America needs more aircraft mechanics and avionics technicians. Rockford is now home to one of the nation’s only registered apprenticeship programs aimed at filling that need. The U.S. Department of Labor and Rockford aircraft maintenance company Emery Air signed an agreement Wednesday to create a training pipeline for the career that’s in heavy demand.

University of Illinois

The Illinois economy continues to grow … but at a slower rate than a few months ago. That’s according to a monthly economic report from the University of Illinois.

The U of I Flash Index fell to 105.8 in October from 106 in September. Though any number over 100 indicates growth in the state's economy, this is the third month of decline for the index.

The report's author Fred Giertz says the slower growth is a reflection of a bigger global trend -- including slowdowns in Europe and China.

Mercy Rockford Health System

OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center could be forced to cut the equivalent of 200 full-time jobs if the Rockford Health System Riverside Campus is built on the east side.

That is one of several objections raised about the project in a letter from St. Anthony CEO and President Paula Carynski filed last week with the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board.

WNIJ’s Gas Price Monday: Oct. 26, 2015

Oct 26, 2015
Carl Nelson/WNIJ

Gas prices in Illinois fell a little from last week ... but only about a dime.

According to AAA, gallon of regular gas in the Rockford area costs $2.31 on average. That’s 7 cents less than a week ago and about 70 cents less than a year ago.

Chicago prices are at $2.80 per gallon. That's about a dime less than a week ago and about 75 cents less than a year ago.

Wikimedia

A bigger portion of older people's income could be going to healthcare costs next year.

This change is based on something seemingly unrelated: Low gas prices.

Each year, the federal government releases what's called a "consumer price index," that lays out the amount of inflation observed in the U.S. economy.

Social Security and other government beneficiaries will receive a cost of living increase tied to inflation. But economists this year predict there will be no cost of living adjustment, known as a COLA, because gas prices have been so low.

ConAgra Foods

Governor Bruce Rauner says Illinois will see a net gain of jobs from a  Fortune 500 company that just received state tax breaks. 

ConAgra already employees Illinois workers, but it's transferring them from Naperville to Chicago. That’s part of a larger move to the city from its headquarters in Omaha.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

United Auto Workers members have resoundingly rejected a four-year contract with Fiat Chrysler. Workers at the plant in Belvidere were among the last in the nation to vote on the deal union leaders had worked out with the automaker: like most Fiat Chrysler plants nation-wide, they overwhelmingly vote "no."

65% of the Belvidere plant's 3000 UAW members voted against the proposal. It's considered a rebuke of their union leaders who supported the deal.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Votes this week will decide the fate of a four-year contract proposal for Fiat Chrysler employees nationwide. Today, union workers in Belvidere’s plant will cast their ballots.

Belvidere is one of the big Fiat Chrysler plants UAW leaders hope will approve the national contract the union hammered out with the automaker. So far this week, workers at a number of factories have rejected the deal. A truck plant in Warren, Michigan approved it.

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