Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 21, 2011

Urbana Mayor Vetoes Convention & Visitors Bureau Funding

The decision by the mayor of Urbana to veto city funding for the Champaign County Convention and Visitors Bureau will only hurt the city in the long run, according to the group's president Jayne DeLuce.

Mayor Laurel Prussing said the agency has not been effective, and that the nearly $72,000 in the budget for the CVB could be used to help fill two police vacancies instead.

But DeLuce said cutting funding will limit the CVB's ability to promote events like the Illinois Marathon and state high school athletic tournaments, and facilities like hotels and convention spaces. She said she will attend an Urbana City Council committee meeting on July 11th to defend her agency's work.

"We're not looking back in five years and saying, 'Wow, how come we don't have that event here anymore? How come nothing new has happened anymore? Why are our tax revenues staying plateaued or not increasing?' And when you decrease local funding, that's what happens," DeLuce said.

But right now, Prussing said she does not believe the CVB's claim that it has generated 7.2% of hotel room nights in Urbana, for an economic impact of over $3.1 million, according to a formula used by the state Office of Tourism.

"I think most of the tourists that come to Urbana and Champaign come here because of the University of Illinois," Prussing said. "I don't think that the tourism bureau has much of an impact. They can't measure their impact. No business in Urbana has told me they have an impact on that business."

A statement from DeLuce said one Urbana businessman --- Adam Friederich of the Comfort Suites Hotel --- credits the Convention and Visitors Bureau for nearly 10% of their budget revenues so far this year.

But Prussing said the city needs the money budgeted for the CVB to help close a nearly $1 million budget gap --- one that may get wider, once a new police contract is settled through binding arbitration.

Prussing said the idea for cutting CVB funding to help address the budget shortfall came from Alderman Charlie Smyth.

Smyth said he brought up the proposal last month, to contrast it with proposed cuts to social service funding --- something he said is an easy target because the people served by such funding do not have the political voice of local business interests. But Smyth said he has not reached a final decision yet.

Categories: Business, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 20, 2011

Planned Parenthood: Monday Ruling Needed on Indiana Law

Planned Parenthood of Indiana says it will stop seeing Medicaid patients if a federal judge doesn't rule Monday on its attempt to block the state's new abortion funding law.

The group said it will stop seeing those patients unless they can pay or use other resources if the judge doesn't rule by the close of business Monday on its request for a preliminary injunction blocking the law.

The law signed May 10 by Gov. Mitch Daniels bars Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid payments for general health services such as cancer screens.

Planned Parenthood has been relying on private donations to fund care for Medicaid clients. It has previously said it would run out of donations after Monday to cover the costs of caring for existing Medicaid patients.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 20, 2011

Legislation Seeks to Expand Farmers’ Market Offerings

Small-time growers and cooks who sell food at farmers market may soon be able to expand their offerings. Advocates for locally made food and health department officials are attempting to find some middle ground.

Nearly all the food at farmers market is regulated, some more than others. Basically, if it's in a jar or prepared in any way it must be done in a certified kitchen. But making the upgrade to one of those kitchens can be costly for someone trying to sell baked goods or preserves.

A measure that passed the state legislature recently would allow people to sell certain kinds of food made in a home kitchen. They would be able to do so without making costly upgrades or receiving the stamp of approval from a health department. Dairy products prone to food borne illness wouldn't be allowed. Only baked goods, dried herbs, teas and canned preserves could be sold.

Wes King is a policy coordinator with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance. He said some health code regulations keep culinary entrepreneurs from branching out. He points to the growth in the number of farmers markets throughout the state.

"We thought that you know, creating a more risk and scale appropriate regulations that would allow some of these start up businesses to take place in their homes or farms that are already selling at the farmers market to add a little bit and diversify their product line," King said.

But health department officials were initially concerned. They wanted to make sure consumers knew the food they were buying came from a facility that hasn't been thoroughly inspected. All food made in a home kitchen will need to be labeled as such if Governor Pat Quinn signs the exemptions into law.

"Because this is an evolving industry there were some challenges on the part of the regulatory environment in terms of where can we be flexible but yet still assure a reasonable consumer protection," Peoria health administrator Greg Chance said.

Chance said he support the measure because it only allows the sale of food not usually prone to food borne illness.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 17, 2011

LIFE ON ROUTE 150: Raising Alpacas Sees Growing Profits

Some new livestock farms are cropping up in Illinois, but they're not the typical cattle or hog farms. Instead, more deer, bison, and llamas are growing up on private property. And one relative of the llama is growing up at over 50 farms statewide. As part of the series, "Life on Route 150," Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert visits three farms in Central Illinois to find out what makes the alpaca both appealing and profitable.

(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)

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Categories: Business, Environment

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 16, 2011

Illinois Legislators to Meet with Quinn About Gambling Bill

Illinois legislators are meeting with Governor Pat Quinn Thursday in hopes of winning his support for a gambling expansion bill.

Quinn has spoken out against the legislation -- approved last month-- which would add slot machines and five new casinos, including one in Danville.

Rather than give Quinn the chance to veto or change the package, either of which would likely kill it, legislators used a technical maneuver to keep it from going to the governor's desk.

Senate sponsor Terry Link (D-30th) said the hold gives him time to assuage the governor's concerns.

"Yeah, we will increase in size but you know we're not up there being another Las Vegas by any means," he said.

Link said he is open to talking with Quinn if the governor has any suggestions on how to downsize the measure. But said the casino set to go in his district near Waukegan would have to remain.

House sponsor Lou Lang (D-16th) will also be in on talks with Quinn.

"To the extent that I can accommodate the governor, I'm willing to listen to him. Willing to hear what he wants to do. But I'm not willing to state upfront that I'm prepared to shrink the bill down," Lang said.

However, Lang said he won't accept substantial changes.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 15, 2011

LIFE ON ROUTE 150: Food Insecurity Grows in East Central Illinois

(With additional reporting by Pam Dempsey/CU-CitizenAccess)

The term "food desert' has gained traction in recent years as a name for areas with a shortage of full-service food stores. But it's not clear how big a role they play in the lives of people who struggle to get the food they need. As part of the series "Life on Route 150," Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows visited the Piatt County town of Mansfield. The people there have enough to eat, but they have to travel to get it.

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Categories: Business, Health

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 05, 2011

LIFE ON ROUTE 150: Communities Come Together in the Kitchen

There are people out there who want think they have that million dollar recipe that food shoppers will flock to buy. But beyond that first batch, what's missing is the right kitchen. As part of the series "Life on Route 150," Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers looks at the effort to build a community kitchen in Champaign-Urbana, and he visits one-kitchen in Danville that's taken off.

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)

View a Slideshow from The Cook's Workshop in Danville

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Categories: Business
Tags: business

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 03, 2011

Indiana Economic Outlook Improves Although Gaming Revenues Down

It's been a while since Indiana reported revenues exceeding projections, but that's what happened in May.

Indiana's State Budget Agency reported today that the state took in $1.2 billion, roughly $151 million more than forecasters projected.

The increase covers a nearly $90 million revenue shortfall in April.

"It is clear that individual income tax collections have improved dramatically in 2011 compared to 2010 due to strong employment and income growth," agency director Adam Horst stated in a written statement. "Payroll withholdings, the largest component of individual income tax collections, have consistently grown in excess of 6 percent throughout 2011. For April and May, individual income tax collections grew 20 percent compared to the same time period for 2010."

In this fiscal year, which ends at the end of June, Indiana's collected $128 million more in taxes that the state's forecasting committee projected.

Revenues are also up by over 9 percent this year than last.

The only down side to the forecast was gaming revenues for the state.

Horst said riverboat wagering tax collections again fell short of the monthly target, and now lag behind 2010 revenues by 3.4 percent.

"On the other hand, racino (horse racing) wagering tax collections continue to exceed monthly targets, and are running 7.4 percent ahead of 2010 revenues," Horst said. "Through May, total gaming revenues trail the revenue forecast by $13 million and are running $8 million behind collections for the same time period last year."

Northwest Indiana is home to five casino boats along Lake Michigan.

The stale gaming numbers come at a time when Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is considering signing a bill that would dramatically increase casino licenses in the state.

Under the proposed plan, a casino could be approved for a south suburban location, as well as for downtown Chicago. Either location could eat into revenues taken in by casinos in Northwest Indiana.

Categories: Business, Economics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 02, 2011

Chicago-Based Groupon Files for Hotly Anticipated IPO

The daily deal website Groupon has filed to sell shares to the public, stoking excitement about a new tech boom in Chicago.

Groupon plans to raise as much $750 million and says it will use the money for working capital, including buying other companies.

Last year, Forbes called Groupon the fastest-growing company ever, and anticipation of a Groupon IPO has been growing ever since the company reportedly spurned a $6 billion buyout offer from Google.

Waverly Deutsch is a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She says this is a huge deal for Chicago's tech scene.

"Either in 2000 or 2001, BusinessWeek featured a cover article that was, 'How Did Chicago Entirely Miss the Tech Boom?' They can't say that this time around," Deutsch said.

In its IPO filing, Groupon says sales grew from $3 million in the second quarter of 2009 to $645 million in the first quarter of this year. The company says its ticker symbol will be GRPN.

Categories: Business
Tags: business

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 01, 2011

Another Slight Economic Bump Shown in UI Flash Index

Tax revenue keeps going up in Illinois, and that means a continued rise in an indicator of how well the state's economy is doing.

The monthly University of Illinois Flash Index rose.2 in May to 96.8. For the past two years it's been creeping ever closer to 100, the break-even point between economic growth and contraction. The Flash Index uses tax revenue from sales and income to measure the overall economy.

U of I economist Fred Giertz authored the index. He says a small portion of that increasing tax revenue may have come from rising prices on food and fuel. "Some tax revenues are stimulated by inflation, actually -- for example, the sales tax on gasoline," Giertz pointed out. "So it's not directly about that; certainly over the long run it would be related, but not over the short run. The more direct link would be something that came out (Tuesday) about consumer confidence."

Last month's confidence index dropped sharply - Giertz says that's a more significant result of higher food and gas prices.


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