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Illinois Pork Producers Association

Growing up in Rushville as the granddaughter of Schuyler County pig and dairy farmers, Carrie Johnson learned early the importance of agriculture to the local economy. Now an adult living and working in Rushville, Johnson says she supports the growth of local business and agriculture.

pixabay.com

Banking in Illinois ranks fourth among all the states for choice, stability, best rates, and customer satisfaction, according to a recent survey by Money-Rates.com.

The survey compared the number of banks in each state, the number of bank failures, the interest rates for savings and deposits, and the JD Power ratings of banks to generate the list.

Caterpillar Headquarters Will Move To Deerfield

Apr 19, 2017
Caterpillar

Caterpillar Inc. has announced it is moving its corporate headquarters from Peoria to the Chicago suburb of Deerfield.

According to Wednesday’s announcement, the heavy-equipment maker has reached a leasing agreement at a Deerfield office park and expects to relocate 100 employees there this year. About 300 people will be working at the new headquarters by mid-2018.

The company previously announced plans to build a new headquarters complex in Peoria. It cited "challenging market conditions" in cancelling the plan.

frontierleague.com

Minor league baseball players are suing Major League Baseball, claiming unfair pay. But a new proposal in Illinois would protect independent leagues from a similar lawsuit. 

The state’s minimum wage law applies to most workers, but there are a few exceptions: farm hands, children of small business owners, and outdoor salesmen to name a few.

Carl Nelson / WNIJ

The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded fell for ten straight days nationally, but is up a few cents in Illinois. 

The average price in the state is $2.35 a gallon, up a little more than a penny from a week ago. 

Springfield has the cheapest gas in the state, at $2.19. Rockford's average is $2.24, down a penny from last week. A year ago this week, prices in Rockford were below the $2.00 mark, at $1.97. 

Cass Herrington

Caterpillar says it believes that a search warrant executed by federal authorities on Thursday at its facilities concerns "export filings" related to its Switzerland subsidiary CSARL.

Federal officials executed search warrants at several offices of Caterpillar Inc. in Peoria, East Peoria and Morton. People wearing navy blue jackets labeled IRS and Federal Agents carried boxes out of the headquarters building.

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. 

Amazon.com

Online retailer Amazon.com said Tuesday it plans to open two new fulfillment centers, employing more than 1,000 people full-time between them, in Aurora, Ill. 

Officials say one of the new facilities will focus on smaller items, such as books and small electronics, and the other will handle large items like big-screen TVs. 

Great Lakes Basin Transportation / greatlakesbasin.net

What’s the Great Lakes Basin Railroad and why should I care?

The GLBR is a proposed railway that, if you live in northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin, or northwest Indiana, you’ve either never heard of or have spent a lot of time learning about over the last year.

Under the current route proposal, the Great Lakes Basin Railroad would enter Kankakee County, Illinois, just below the Will County line, traveling west-southwest to enter Grundy County a couple of miles above its southern boundary.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Over the past year, through three iterations of route proposals, many landowners were outraged when they learned their homes and farms were in the path of a railroad that would divert freight traffic around the Chicago area. They took that anger to a series of sometimes raucous public hearings.

But it’s easy to lose sight of the individuals in a crowd. This isn’t just a gang of rabble-rousers; these are real people. So we met with opponents of the Great Lakes Basin Railroad on their own turf: turf that the rail company would like to sink its tracks into.

Milken Institute

The Rockford area moved up substantially in a nationwide ranking of the cities released Wednesday.

The 2016 Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index rated the Rockford area 125th among 200 large metropolitan areas. Last year the city was rated 176th. The index cited growth in short-term jobs, as well as in high-tech jobs, like those at aircraft component maker Woodward, Inc. The institute also looks at capital investment and other factors.

ADP

A new report says Illinois added 8,600 private sector jobs in November. That’s a rebound after two months of much smaller increases.

The increase in the November ADP Regional Employment Report® comes after previous reports showing only 3,600 nonfarm private sector jobs were added in October and 2,100 in September.

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.

Rockford Register Star

Unemployment rates in Rockford tend to be among the highest in northern Illinois. For African Americans, that rate is nearly double.

WNIJ’s Susan Stephens spoke with former Rockford Register Star reporter Brian Leaf about what’s being done to remedy that.  It was one of Leaf’s last stories as a reporter for the paper and is part of our collaboration “Race in the Rock River Valley.”

WNIJ's Gas Price Monday: October 3, 2016

Oct 3, 2016
Carl Nelson/WNIJ

The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded in Illinois is $2.28.  This is three cents cheaper than last week's state average.  

AAA reports the most expensive gas can be found in the city of Chicago, at $2.62 per gallon.  The cheapest gas is available in Danville, at $2.08.   

Rockford's average gas price is $2.16 per gallon.  

Dixon is a city of around 16,000 people in Lee County.  It’s best known as the boyhood home of U.S. President Ronald Reagan, and also hosts IDOT’s Region 2 headquarters. 

However, for a city of its size, NIU economics scholar Brian Richard says Dixon’s seen major growth in the manufacturing sector.

“Lee County, Dixon, manufacturing employment is growing over the last five years 37%, 30-40%, whereas statewide it’s closer to five percent." 

This is based on economic date compiled from 2010-2014. 

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. 

DeKalb County Business Incubator Assists Fledgling Firms

Jul 26, 2016
Chase Cavanaugh

Companies started by entrepreneurs face many challenges, including the need for space and funds.

The DeKalb County Government recently opened a business incubator in its facilities off of Annie Glidden Road.  It's the brainchild of the County Board’s Economic Development Committee, which wanted to provide a space for small businesses to grow.  Chairman Bob Brown explains:

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Chrysler’s parent company confirms it: the Jeep Cherokee will be produced at the Belvidere Assembly Plant starting next year.

Fiat-Chrysler America’s spokesperson Jodi Tinson says the company is making a big investment in Belvidere: $350-million to retool the plant and eventually, 300 new full-time jobs.

Phil Masterton/WNIJ

The Illinois Toll Highway Authority is playing a vital role in economic development and job creation throughout northern Illinois. It’s also looking for ways to increase minority-owned and veteran-owned businesses in their construction projects.

The Authority is planning to build a nearly 63,000-square-foot Maintenance Facility at U.S. 20 and I-90. The new building will be LEED certified, green and modern – and will involve and built by more minority-, disadvantaged-, women- and veteran-owned businesses than ever before.

Phil Masterton/WNIJ

Ground was broken officially Monday for the $485 million Mercyhealth regional medical center in northeast Rockford.

The center will include the highest-level services for perinatal and newborn intensive care, trauma services, and specialty medical services, according to Mercyhealth President Javon R. Bea.

"This project is the largest construction project in Rockford history,” he said, “and it will enhance not only patient care but also economic growth to the greater Rockford region in many ways."

Exelon To Close Two Illinois Nuclear Plants

Jun 2, 2016
Exelon

Exelon Corp. says it will move forward with plans to shut two Illinois nuclear plants after the Illinois Legislature didn't act on its request for financial support. 

The company announced it will close the Clinton Power Station in Clinton on June 1, 2017, and the Quad Cities Generating Station in Cordova on June 1, 2018. 

Exelon says the locations are its best-performing plants but they have lost $800 million over the last seven years. About 1,500 people work at the plants. 

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Anywhere you go in America, you are never far from railroad tracks. Someone has to maintain all of those tracks. And someone has to build the machines to do it. That’s why the owners of a Rockford company want Congress to know railway maintenance is a five-billion dollar industry that deserves support.  

Southern Wisconsin Grapes Suffer Under Recent Cold Snap

May 17, 2016
University of Minnesota Extension (http://www.extension.umn.edu)

Vintners across southern Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota are reeling from a weekend cold snap that ruined huge swaths of their grapes.

Temperatures on Saturday and Sunday dropped below freezing in much of those areas, killing grape buds that had emerged early due to the warm spring.

Wisconsin Grape Growers Association President Steve Johnson said Tuesday at least 30 vineyards lost more than 50 percent of their crops.

Rochelle Firm Grows Hydroponic Tomatoes Year-Round

May 9, 2016
MightyVine

Chicago foodies and restaurateurs had a problem: They wanted fresh tomatoes year-round, but crops shipped in during winter lacked the tasted of a locally grown summer batch.

To address this taste issue, they started a company called MightyVine.  Dutch-born Chief Operating Officer Nic Helderman says that, once the company formed, it moved quickly to establish operations in Rochelle.  

Guy Stephens / WNIJ

  Last fall, Accuride Corporation’s Gunite plant in Rockford won an industry award for excellence in manufacturing and business.  It reflects an extraordinary transformation for a facility that just a few years ago was, in the company’s own words, “left for dead” by the previous owners.  

Carl Nelson/WNIJ

Gas prices continue to climb, in Illinois and nationwide, according to the latest AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

The average cost of a gallon of regular unleaded in Illinois is up nine cents since last week, to $1.88. That’s 30 cents higher than a month ago.

The national average is up six cents, but still slightly cheaper than Illinois, at $1.81. 

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.

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