WILL - Focus - April 25, 2014

Brain drain in downstate Illinois

There’s been a steady flow of industry and people out of some downstate Illinois factory towns for years. This hour on Focus, we'll look at the numbers and hear from one town that has stopped the outflow of people, even after their Maytag plant relocated.


(Duration: 35:19)

downtown Decatur

When Archer Daniels Midland told Decatur city officials that it would be moving its global headquarters to Chicago, city councilman Pat McDaniel said the news hurt, but that it wasn’t surprising. “Young people don’t want to locate in Decatur anymore, at least we’re starting to see more and more people want to move to places like Chicago.”

And according to IRS and US Census data, McDaniel might be right. People are moving, around Illinois and out of the state all together. For at least the last fifteen years, more people have moved out of Illinois than have moved in. In order to keep businesses and communities thriving, Michael Lucci of the Illinois Policy Institute says that trend has to stop. It’s costing the state lots of money in tax revenue. In addition, Lucci says it’s a specific demographic that appears to be moving out.

Categories: Business, Community, Economics

WILL - Focus - February 10, 2014

Down the Up Escalator: How the 99 Percent Live

This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Barbara Garson about her book “Down the Up Escalator,” which follows families, rich and poor, through the Great Recession.


(Duration: 51:51)

book cover

The Great Recession threw huge economic challenges at nearly all Americans – rich and poor. In her book Down the Up Escalator, Barbara Garson writes about how those challenges played out in the lives of real people. This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Garson about her book and about what happens to those at the bottom when a society’s organization favors those at the top.

Categories: Economics

WILL - Focus - January 31, 2014

Cash, credit or Bitcoin?

Venture capitalists are starting to invest in bitcoin, and some major retailers are considering accepting it as payment. Does that mean it’s on track to become a new form of mainstream currency?


(Duration: 51:51)

a bitcoin banknote

Bitcoin, a form of cryptocurrency, is now being accepted by major online supplier Sites like are also reported to also be considering accepting bitcoin as payment. There are even bitcoin ATMs starting to pop up in major cities. Locally, Cheese and Crackers, an artisanal deli in Champaign, has been accepting bitcoin for about 6 months. Owner Bart Basi says in his store bitcoin is more of a conversation starter than a currency at this point but that he does get a couple customers every month who pay with it.

This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Basi about being reimbursed in bitcoin. Jim Angel, Visiting Associate Professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania from the School of Business at Georgetown University, also joins the show. Venture capital firms like Anderseen-Horowitz, whose co-founder wrote recently about the potential for bitcoin, say bitcoin is a solution to a lot of technical problems with online payments. Angel isn’t so sure and joins Focus to talk about the merits and problems with bitcoin.

Categories: Business, Economics

WILL - Focus - January 08, 2014

Raising the Minimum Wage

The minimum wage in Illinois is $8.25. Should it be higher?


(Duration: 49:59)

Rachel Warren is 21 and says that she “makes it work” supporting herself by working two jobs for minimum wage, one in Champaign and one in Urbana. If she had to support someone else, however, she says that just wouldn’t be feasible. Gov. Pat Quinn has been pushing for an increase to Illinois minimum wage, which is already a dollar higher than the federal standard. If the state mandated a wage increase for people like Warren, she says even a dollar more an hour would make a substantial difference in her monthly budget.
This hour on focus, we’ll hear from Warren and will talk about the pros and cons of raising the minimum wage and the arguments for and against doing so. Bob Bruno, Professor of Labor and Employment Relations at the University of Illinois at Chicago and James Sherk, a Senior Policy Analyst in Labor Economics at the Heritage Foundation join us.
Do you or have you ever worked for minimum wage? Are you a small business owner who would be affected by a potential wage increase? Post in the comments section below!

Categories: Community, Economics, Politics

WILL - Focus - July 01, 2013

Encore: Going Cashless?

This hour on Focus, we’ll listen back to a conversation we had this spring about what it would be like to live in a cashless society.

a heap of money

Fewer and fewer people are regularly carrying cash. Carrying cards seems easier, and paying with plastic leaves a handy electronic record to track where your money goes. But with lots of questions circling about cyber-security, isn’t there a huge advantage to paying with cash money? This hour on Focus, we’ll talk about money, currency and what it would be like to live in a world without cash. David Wolman, author of “The End of Money: Counterfeiters, Preachers, Techies, Dreamers – and the Coming Cashless Society and Professor of Finance Charles Kahn join us. Kahn is a consultant at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and has written about payments economics and identify theft.

Categories: Economics

WILL - Focus - March 20, 2013

Home Foreclosure in Illinois

Even though the economy is slowly starting to improve, Illinois still has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation. Today on Focus, we talked about the problem and about new policies that are supposed to help solve it. We also talk with one community member working to help East Central Illinois families keep their homes.


(Duration: 50:17)

a foreclosed home

Foreclosure rates in Illinois are beginning to fall, but many are still struggling to recover from the recession, especially those who were affected when the housing bubble burst. This hour on Focus, we’ll talk about new foreclosure policies in Illinois meant to fast track the sale of vacant properties to help our local economies and families recover from the foreclosure crisis. As the state’s foreclosure rate remains stubbornly high, we’ll also examine how big of a problem foreclosures continue to be in East Central Illinois and talk with Reverend Eugene Barnes, the founder of Metanoia, a community group based in Champaign, who has taken it into his own hands to help struggling families keep their homes. Geoff Smith, Executive Director of the Institute for Housing Services at DePaul University also joins us.

WILL - Focus - March 15, 2013

Coming up on Next Week on Focus: Fracking, Quantifying Happiness and Prescription Side Effects

What makes you happy? Can you quantify it?  If you could have a voice in writing regulations for something you strongly oppose, would you? Or would you walk away on principle? Find out more about what’s coming up on Focus. 


Next week on Focus, we'll talk with one of the pioneers in the reserach of happiness about how he got the pscyhological science community to take him seriously, how computers could soon change the way we talk about prescription side effects and how environmental groups came together to work with energy companies to write state regualtions for hyrdraulic fracturing. 

WILL - Focus - March 13, 2013

East Central Illinois: Where Jobs are Created and Sustained?

Do you make it a point to shop and support locally owned stores and restaurants? It really does make a big difference to the local economy if you do. Today on Focus, we talked about economic development and new trends in the area.


(Duration: 50:26)

According to a new report from the Milken Institute, Champaign-Urbana and Danville are both on the list of best performing small cities, but what does that really mean? The report shows Danville climbing in ranking while Chambana was slipping. During this hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Vicki Haugen, President and CEO of Vermilion Advantage and Mike Kirchoff, President and CEO of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation.

We’ll talk about new development projects in the area, trends with unemployment rates and Danville’s retail resurgence. We’ll also talk about the health of the manufacturing industry in East Central Illinois, what’s ahead for the region and how we can keep local economies healthy in spite of state budget woes.

Categories: Animals, Community, Economics

WILL - Focus - March 08, 2013

Bats, Economic Development and a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate: Coming up next week on Focus

Is it important to you to shop locally? Did you know bats play a really important role in the production of tequila and chocolate? Find out more about what’s coming up on Focus and join our conversation.

Jody Williams

Monday, March 11 - My Name is Jody Williams
Have you been an activist? What causes matter to you?

Jody Williams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her campaign to eradicate landmines. But she wasn’t always an activist. Monday on Focus, we’ll talk with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jody Williams about her new memoir, “My Name is Jody Williams.” She’ll tell us about her life as an activist, why she’s spent her career advocating for freedom and human rights and what she really means when she uses the word “peace.”

WILL - Focus - March 01, 2013

Filing Your Taxes

The alternative minimum tax was patched in January. But wait, what’s that again? Today on Focus, talked with John Breen and Marty Verdick of McGladrey LLP in Champaign about the things you need to know to file this year’s income tax return. Find the podcat here. 


(Duration: 50:28)

1040 tax form from 2005

This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with John Breen, Tax Director at McGladrey LLP and Marty Verdick, Tax Partner at McGladrey LLP about the so-called fiscal cliff package that was passed in January and how it affects your bottom line. He also asks about the new Medicare surtax for 2013, which tax software to use when preparing your taxes on your own and when it’s a good idea to hire a tax preparer. Also in this episode of Focus – how to choose the best tax preparer for your needs, what questions to ask and the gray areas in the tax code. We also talk about new forms this year for same-sex couples in civil unions.

Tags: taxes

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