Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 24, 2011

Indianapolis Airport Reconsiders Removing Artwork

Officials at Indianapolis International Airport are reconsidering a decision to take down a three-story sculptural painting and replace it with a video screen that will show advertising.

Plans had been to remove the glass-and-canvas piece called "Chrysalis'' from the prominent spot over the main escalators where it has been since the airport's new passenger terminal opened in 2008.

Airport spokesman Carlo Bertolini tells The Indianapolis Star (http://bit.ly/raEJoF ) that plans to install a video wall remain, but that officials are looking into whether it can be placed elsewhere.

A spokesman for Mayor Greg Ballard says the mayor's office has expressed its support that airport visitors be greeted with high-profile public art.

The airport paid $150,000 for the piece made from canvases, aluminum and glass panels that weighs more than a ton.

Categories: Business, Transportation

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - August 18, 2011

July Existing Home Sales Up From Year Ago

Sales of existing homes in Illinois were up 18.4 percent in July compared to a year ago, while the statewide median price went down 3.8 percent.

Figures released Thursday by the Illinois Association of Realtors show the state's home sales continuing to recover, but not the selling prices.

That's also the case in Champaign County, where July home sales were up sharply from a year ago, while the median selling price had fallen 11 percent.

Champaign County Association of Realtors President Max Mitchell said that's been the case for some time, as the country recovers from the collapse of the housing bubble.

"When our market was very active, sellers would put their house on the market, and sell in a reasonable time as long as they were priced properly," Mitchell said. "What we've seen in the past two years, is that sellers have been selling their homes for significantly less."

The Regional Economics Applications Laboratory at the University of Illinois analyzes housing sales data for the Illinois Association of Realtors. REAL director, Dr. Georffrey Hewings, said the fall in home prices has been largely due to the the number of foreclosed properties on the market. But he said he thinks that trend is slowing down.

"Over the next three months, we anticipate that prices will continue to move down, but at much, much slower rates than this time last year," Hewings said. "So, I think there's some general sense we have, that the market, if it isn't at the bottom, it's pretty close to it."

Hewings said home sales are recovering, after taking a fall last summer, when a federal tax credit for home buyers expired. Hewings said he believes the total number of Illinois home sales should continue to grow during the next three months.

The total number of homes sold in July in Champaign County was 195, up 43.4 percent from a year ago, and 105 homes sold in Macon County, for a 50 percent improvement. The 35 homes sold last month in Vermilion County represent a nearly 14.6 percent decline, although year-to-date home sales are up 16 percent from 2010.

Categories: Business
Tags: business

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 18, 2011

Illinois Unemployment up for 3rd Straight Month

State officials say unemployment in Illinois inched up to 9.5 percent in July, the third consecutive month it has increased.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security says there were 24,900 fewer jobs reported last month.

Unemployment for Illinois was 9.1 percent in June. But the rate one year ago in July was 10.1 percent.

The numbers were released Thursday and are based on data from the state agency and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The director of the employment security department is Jay Rowell. He says the July increase, which follows 15 months of declines, reflects uncertainty in consumer confidence and the volatility in the national economy.

He says long term data is a better indicator.

Categories: Business, Economics, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 18, 2011

Oak Forest Hospital to Close by End of Month

Activists who lost their fight to preserve Oak Forest Hospital now say they're going to focus on holding Cook County to its commitments.

A state board Tuesday approved the county's plan to close the hospital and replace it with a regional outpatient center. Patients, unions and community activists managed to stave off the closure twice before. But at Tuesday's meeting of the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, the county won the day.

Organizers say now the task is to make Cook County honor its pledge not to abandon south suburbanites.

"Let us take those concerns and be very vigilant," said William McNary of Citizen Action Illinois, calling the vote expected but disappointing. "Don't give up today. Because those health care needs are still going to continue beyond what they do here."

McNary sits on an advisory board set up by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. He vowed to make sure the outpatient center offers the best possible care and to press neighboring hospitals to follow through on their promise to absorb Oak Forest patients.

Many of the opponents sat through the four-hour meeting holding protest signs, and some even cried "genocide" as the vote was unfolding.

President Preckwinkle said she understands the anxiety, but condemns the rhetoric.

"To suggest the people on the independent governing board or the health care professionals are motivated by genocidal impulses is demeaning and extremely unfortunate," Preckwinkle said after the vote.

The county made several concessions to opponents, including agreeing to run an immediate care facility on the site around the clock. Ultimately, new appointments to a state regulatory board gave Cook County the votes it lacked in two previous efforts to pass the plan.

County officials say they plan to discontinue hospital operations by the end of August and immediately begin phasing in the clinic services.

Categories: Business, Economics, Health

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - August 17, 2011

Operator of Art Theater Moves Ahead with Co-Op Concept

The operator of Champaign-Urbana's only movie theater specializing in art and foreign films says he's gotten a positive response from his proposal to convert the business into a co-op.

Sanford Hess hosted a public meeting about his plans at the Art Theater in downtown Champaign on Aug. 14. He said the 40 people attending were receptive to the co-op concept --- largely due to its successful use by the Common Ground Food Co-op in Urbana.

"So people have latched on," Hess said. "Many people were very nervous that I was going to stand up there and say, 'OK I'm leaving and the Art's going to shut down.' And I think that people, sort of in a sigh of relief, are lining up to support the cooperative, because I think they understand that this is the best-case scenario for having the Art continue to be in business.

Hess said that with guidance from Common Ground board chairman Ben Galewsky, he hopes to form a board of directors to oversee the conversion of the Art Theater to a co-op. He said he believes raising money from co-op members is the best way to ensure the Art's long-term survival --- plus the short-term expense of industry-mandated digital projection upgrades costing at least $70,000.

"Like in the next couple of months, some specific decisions need to be made," Hess said. "The whole point of the cooperative is that it would not necessarily be me, Sanford Hess, making these decisions. It would be the cooperative making these decisions. So we need to form it as an entity, have a board appointed, so we can start actually locking stuff down and making plans."

The Art Theater opened in downtown Champaign as the Park Theater in 1913. In 1958, it became the Art Theater, specializing in foreign and art films. It's continued that policy since then, except for a period in the 1970s and '80s when it ran X-rated movies. Hess says he's committed to operating the theater at least through 2012, when his lease expires.

Categories: Business

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 16, 2011

Illinois Hospitals Denied Property Tax Exemptions

The Illinois Department of Revenue has denied property tax exemptions to hospitals in Decatur, Chicago, and Naperville in a move that signals the state's plans to get tough on nonprofit hospitals that operate more like businesses than charities.

At stake are millions of dollars in tax revenue that the hospitals could contribute to cities, parks and schools.

Revenue Department officials tell The Associated Press that the hospitals were informed today. The three are: Decatur Memorial Hospital in Decatur, Northwestern Memorial's Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago, and Edward Hospital in Naperville.

The hospitals can ask an administrative law judge to review the decisions.

Illinois' Supreme Court ruled last year that Urbana-based Provena Covenant Medical Center wasn't doing enough free or discounted treatment of the poor to qualify for a tax exemption.

Categories: Business, Economics, Health

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 16, 2011

Status Hearing Scheduled for Rezko

A convicted influence peddler remains on track to be sentenced weeks after his one-time benefactor, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Prosecutors said at a status hearing Tuesday that they want to stick with an Oct. 21 sentencing date for Tony Rezko.

The government has portrayed Rezko as the ultimate insider who pulled strings in Blagojevich's administration.

A jury convicted Rezko in 2008 of squeezing kickbacks from businessmen eager to land state contracts.

The 56-year-old appeared at Tuesday's hearing in jail clothes and chains binding his ankles. He smiled weakly and waived at relatives on courtroom benches.

Jurors convicted Blagojevich for corruption in June. His sentencing date is Oct. 6.

Rezko's sentencing was repeatedly delayed to leave the possibility he could testify at Blagojevich's trial. But the government never called him.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 15, 2011

Trial Over Hot Dog Ads Ends 1st Day in Chicago

The nation's largest hot dog makers argued about the meaning of "100 percent pure beef" and the merits of ketchup Monday in a lawsuit over advertising claims stemming from their years of dog-eat-dog competition.

Attorneys for Sara Lee Corp., which makes Ball Park franks, and Kraft Foods Inc., which makes Oscar Mayer, superimposed giant hot dogs on a courtroom screen as they delivered opening remarks in a case that could clarify how far companies can go when boasting about their products.

"There's never been anything of this scope . . . in the entire history of hot dogs," Sara Lee's attorney, Richard Leighton, said about what the company says is Kraft's false and deceptive ad campaign that claimed Oscar Mayer wieners were the best-tasting franks.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Morton Denlow, who will decide if either company broke false advertising laws, couldn't resist a note of levity as he cast his eyes at the attorneys and proclaimed, "Let the wiener wars begin."

The legal dog fight began when Sara Lee filed a lawsuit in 2009, singling out Oscar Mayer ads that brag its dogs beat Ball Park franks in a national taste test. Leighton argued the tests were deeply flawed and gave as an example that the hot dogs were presented to participants without buns or any condiments, such as ketchup.

"They were served boiled hot dogs on a white paper plate," he told Denlow. As a result, Leighton said, Sara Lee's hot dogs may well have tasted too salty or smoky when consumed sans buns.

Among other flaws, he went on, was a rule barring anyone who ever worked in a factory from taking the test.

"You may be excluding blue-collar workers," he said. "And they're big hot-dog eaters."

Kraft filed a countersuit later in 2009, accusing Sara Lee of running ads for Ball Parks with the tagline "America's Best Franks" based on an award from ChefsBest, a food-judging organization based in San Francisco.

The other focus of the trial is Kraft's claim that its Oscar Mayer Jumbo Beef Franks are "100 percent pure beef." Sara Lee says the claim is untrue, that it cast aspersions on Ball Park franks and damaged their sales.

But Kraft's attorney, Stephen O'Neil, told the judge the 100 percent beef tag was never intended to suggest there weren't other ingredients -- like water, salt and various spices. It was only meant to convey that the meat that was used was all beef, he said.

That stress was designed to counter lingering impressions that hot dogs contain suspect, "mysterious meats," he added. And he said it defied common sense to argue that consumers might take the label as meaning that the one and only ingredient was beef.

"If there was nothing but beef, it wouldn't be a hot dog," he said, "It would be a hamburger."

Denlow let slip that, according to his own personal tastes, neither Oscar Mayer nor Ball Park are top dog.

"I already have my favorite . . . and it's none of the brands on trial," he told attorneys. He said he may reveal which one it is -- but only after a ruling.

The trial is expected to last about two weeks.

Categories: Business
Tags: business

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 15, 2011

Google Acquires Illinois-Based Motorola Mobility

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

Google is buying Illinois-based cell phone maker Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in cash in what is by far the company's biggest acquisition to date.

Google Inc. will pay $40.00 per share, a 63 percent premium to Motorola's closing price on Friday.

The companies say the deal has been approved by the boards of both companies.

"Motorola Mobility's total commitment to Android has created a natural fit for our two companies," said Google CEO Larry Page in a statement. "Together, we will create amazing user experiences that supercharge the entire Android ecosystem for the benefit of consumers, partners and developers."

The deal gives Google direct control over the maker of many of its Android phones. In pre-market trading, shares of Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. are up 60 percent, or $14.72, to $39.19.

What Google likely wants from the acquisition is Motorola's trove of more than 17,000 patents on phone technology. Google recently lost out to a consortium that included Microsoft Corp., Apple and Research In Motion Ltd. in bidding for thousands of patents from Novell Inc., a maker of computer-networking software, and Nortel Networks, a Canadian telecom gear maker that is bankrupt and is selling itself off in pieces.

Motorola has nearly three times more patents than Nortel.

Earlier this year, Motorola Mobility's CEO announced the company would be staying put in Illinois thanks to a 10-year benefit package from the governor. Motorola Mobility has about 3,000 employees.

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Categories: Business, Technology

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 11, 2011

Sara Lee Lowers Earnings Expectations as it Prepares for Spinoffs

Sara Lee Corp. said Thursday that its fiscal fourth-quarter profit fell 41 percent as it continued to sell-off businesses even as revenue rose on strong results from its North American segments and international beverages unit.

The results of the Downers Grove, IL. food company, which is shedding units as it works to split into two businesses, met analysts' expectations, but the company gave fiscal 2012 adjusted earnings and revenue outlooks below Wall Street's estimates. Its stock fell $1.31, or 7.6 percent, to $16 on the news.

Sara Lee's results continue to be affected by its ongoing plan to become leaner by shedding some operations before it splits into two businesses by early next year -- one focused on coffee and the other largely on meat. Just two days ago, Sara Lee said that it will sell its North American refrigerated dough business to Ralcorp for $545 million. Sara Lee said it's planning to realize $180 million to $200 million in costs savings during fiscal 2012 and 2013 as it prepares for the spinoff.

"Our objective of building two simpler, faster and more entrepreneurial businesses is being realized," Executive Chairman Jan Bennink said in a statement. "We have defined the organizational framework for our new companies and are continuing to build and restructure our teams for the future."

Like other food companies, Sara Lee's results were also impacted as it raised its prices to cope with higher ingredient costs. The company has increased prices across nearly all of its product lines and previously announced that it plans to make price increases all year. Sara Lee's leaders have said that they expect a stronger second half of the year as those price hikes take effect and the company releases new products.

During the current quarter, the company's units benefited from the price hikes. Total revenue rose 9 percent to $2.3 billion from $2.11 billion, topping Wall Street's projected $2.28 billion.

North American retail revenue rose 4 percent mostly because of higher prices. Revenue for the North American food service division climbed 9 percent on increased prices and experienced strong sales of Jimmy Dean breakfast sausages, pre-sliced pies and cakes and branded meats distributed through convenience stores.

The international beverage unit reported a 14 percent revenue increase partly on higher prices and increased green coffee export sales from Brazil. International bakery revenue fell 8 percent on competition in Spain and difficult economic conditions.

Sara Lee earned $111 million, or 19 cents per share, for the period ended July 2. That's down from $187 million, or 28 cents per share, a year ago. Adjusted earnings from continuing operations were 20 cents per share.

For the year, Sara Lee earned $1.29 billion, or $2.06 per share. That compares with earnings of $506 million, or 72 cents per share, in the previous year. Annual revenue rose to $8.68 billion from $8.34 billion.

Looking ahead, Sara Lee expects fiscal 2012 adjusted earnings of 89 cents to 95 cents per share on revenue of $8.5 billion to $8.75 billion. The guidance excludes the international bakery segment, which the company plans to sell. Analysts predict earnings of $1.07 per share on revenue of $9.35 billion.

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Categories: Business, Economics

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