Illinois Public Media News
A week full of classes and events in Champaign County is aimed at helping people guide their personal finances through the tough economy.
The Chicago Federal Reserve is kicking off Money Smart Week this week in several Illinois communities. It's meant to boost financial literacy in a time when it's more important than ever.
One of the advisory committee members in Champaign County is Parkland College president Tom Ramage, who says students and their families can use the courses to chart their immediate and long-term financial futures.
"This gives students the opportunity to get direct answers to specific questions they might have in a short, free -- which is a key word -- experience where they can spend a couple hours, or a couple days, on a specific topic that's relevant, timely to them," Ramage said.
Nearly 25 community agencies, banks, schools and other groups are putting on classes and seminars ranging from basic saving and investing to making budgets and preventing against identity theft.
You can find a schedule of events at the Chicago Fed's website, moneysmartweek.org.
General Growth Properties Inc., the nation's second-largest mall operator, says it has filed for bankruptcy protection after failing to convince its debt holders to give it more time to refinance its crushing debt.
The Chicago-based real estate investment trust said early Thursday it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a New York court. Some 158 regional shopping centers under its control also filed for bankruptcy protection.
The company owns Champaign's Market Place Mall.
General Growth says it received a financing commitment from Pershing Square Capital Management LP of about $375 million and expects it will be able to continue operating its malls as it reorganizes.
The operator of jewelry store in Market Place says most changes coming out of the bankruptcy announcement won't impact the common shopper.
Eric Connery... whose family owns Bauble's.... says he knew this news was coming for the past several months. But he believes having a lease intact makes his store an asset instead of a liability. Connery recently renewed the lease for another year.
He says other than some possible changes in management... it should be business as usual at the mall:
"Their financial problems are so far beyond the mall level they wouldn't affect us," Connery said. "I don't foreseeing anything changing for the negative. The only thing I'd see happening is maybe you'll have some different people in different positions, and change isn't always a bad thing."
Connery says General Growth Properties is just a company that needs time to get its finances restructured... and he expects its ownership of the Champaign mall to remain intact.
(from AM 580 and The Associated Press)
Officials at Archer Daniels Midland's massive Decatur ethanol plant are showing off an 84 million dollar project to study a way to keep more carbon dioxide from reaching the atmosphere.
ADM is the first of seven sites around the nation to begin the process of storing more than a million tons of CO2 deep underground rather than letting it escape into the air. Researchers point to CO2 as a key factor in global warming.
Illinois State Geological Survey director Robert Finley says the experiment is beginning with a test well dug more than a mile into the rock formations under the plant to see how well it can handle the injected gas.
"With a relatively pure source of CO2 coming from ADM's ethanol fermentation facility here in Decatur combined with excellent geology suitable for testing carbon sequestration immediately below the Decatur area and in fact throughout central Illinois, that gives us an opportunity to carry out this test here at Decatur," Finley said.
It'll be another year before ADM will actually inject large amounts of CO2. Finley believes the Illinois Basin can hold many times more carbon dioxide than ADM, the proposed FutureGen coal plant and other industries in central Illinois can produce.
The operator of Boardman's Art Theatre in Champaign is apparently looking to relocate as the building's owner looks for either a new tenant, or to sell the facility for another use.
Owner David Kraft says the rent of 4 dollars a square foot he's charging isn't near the market rate... and he can't afford to charge that little when factoring in expenses like real estate tax, water, trash, and sewer rates. Kraft says he's made operator Greg Boardman an offer of just under 9-dollars a square foot.
"If he won't pay that and no one will pay that, then I think everybody needs to look and determine if there's demand for this, if there's sufficient interest," Kraft said. "If no one is willing to pay near market rent, then maybe we do have to look at different ideas."
Kraft suggests there may not be room for a movie theater anymore when considering what other downtown businesses are paying for first floor retail space. He's looking to sell the Church Street building for just over $1 million.
Kraft says he's drawn interest for other theater operators, but nothing concrete.
Boardman's lease on the Church Street location expires in December. He couldn't be reached for comment, but the co-owner of a building across the street... Bill Capel... confirms Boardman toured his facility last month. That building houses the old Rialto Theater. Capel says any talk of moving Boardman's there would include extensive talk about renovations.
A University of Illinois economist doesn't see a bottom yet in the latest economic slowdown.
The monthly U of I Flash Index authored by Fred Giertz fell for a seventh straight month in March. It now stands at 95.6 - with any number below 100 showing economic contraction. It's been five months since the index showed growth in the Illinois economy. The Flash Index takes the state's economic pulse by examining state tax receipts for the previous month. Giertz expects further declines ahead for the index. It still hasn't reached the level seem in the last two slowdowns, in 1990 and 2001 - and Giertz believes this latest recession is deeper.
Voters in Champaign County will have the future of education funding in their hands when they hit the polls next Tuesday. At issue is a referendum to raise the county sales tax by a penny per dollar. The money would fund school building projects, pare down debt and potentially lower property taxes. As AM 580's Tom Rogers reports, after one failed attempt, the referendum's supporters are taking nothing for granted.
Economic development was a key plank in Laurel Prussing's platform when she first ran for mayor of Urbana. Prussing narrowly defeated Tod Sattherthwaite with the argument that the incumbent hadn't done enough to attract business to the city. Now Prussing faces three challengers who each say they could do a better job, in spite of a recession. AM 580's Jim Meadows reports.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has laid out his budget plan to get the state's finances on track. But lawmakers have yet to get on board.
During his budget address Wednesday, Quinn cautioned the General Assembly that the state won't be able to cut its way out of the financial crisis. He called such thinking mean spirited and says it would lead to layoffs as well as to children and the elderly losing access to health care, saying he believes people would not support a "doomsday budget."
Governor Quinn says an historic budget deficit forced him to propose hikes in the income tax, vehicle registrations, cigarette purchases and call for employee furloughs and major changes in government pensions. But Palatine Republican Senator Matt Murphy says he doesn't buy Quinn's claims about further spending cuts.
"They're not easy and I'm not here to say it is," said Murphy. "But you can either raise taxes that will put more people out of work or you can balance the budget like everyone is having to do at home."
Lawmakers will debate the budget plan.... and likely make changes to it... over the next couple of months.
Illinois has recently seen a surge of wine production. But is it on par with legendary wine regions elsewhere? AM 580 intern Whitney Wyckoff traveled to Vermilion County, where a part of the prairie has become a vineyard.
Many people in the Champaign-Urbana area had a soft spot for Pages for All Ages, a bookstore that welcomed local readers for more than 20 years to its single store, first in Champaign, then in Savoy. Pages abruptly closed its doors for good this week, citing the economy. It's not been an easy go for independent book retailers over the last few years, especially as Amazon and other Internet outlets joined Borders and Barnes and Noble as major competitors. The director of the American Booksellers Association, Avin Mark Donmitz, says Pages fell by the wayside as the group's other members are preparing for a difficult immediate future. He spoke to AM 580's Tom Rogers.
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