Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 25, 2009

Strategic Capital Bank of Champaign Reopens Under New Owners After Govt Takeover

Champaign's Strategic Capital Bank re-opens Tuesday today under new ownership. State banking regulators closed the ten-year-old bank on Friday, and handed it over to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Today (Tuesday), the bank reopens as a branch of Effingham-based Midland States Bank. All deposits and loans are being transferred to Midland States Banks, and officials say customers should see no disruptions in service.

FDIC spokesman David Barr says Strategic Capital apparently ran into financial trouble due to its buying so-called private label mortage-backed securities and making commercial real estate loans. He says that left the bank vulnerable when the housing market and economy suffered a downturn, with home loans and commercial real estate loans taking the biggest hit."And with this bank having a lot of its assets concentrated in those two areas, it had a really adverse impact on their financial condition", says Barr.

Barr says the FDIC will keep a toll-free phone number open this week for former Strategic Capital customers with questions about the bank takeover. Calls will be taken from 8 AM to 8 PM, at 1-866-954-9527. That's 1-866-954-9527.

Besides Strategic Capital bank, state banking regulators shut down Citizens National Bank of Macomb last Friday. That makes a total of five bank failures in Illinois so far this year.

Categories: Business, Economics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 20, 2009

Champaign Council Asks for More Say in Locating County Wind Farms

The Champaign City Council is not protesting the Champaign County Board proposal to allow wind turbine farms in the county --- but it does have a suggestion.

Council members voted 5 to 4 Tuesday night to ask the county board to consider extending the city's buffers outside its borders where it has a say in zoning decisions to 2-and-a-half miles for wind farms. It's currently 1-and-a-half miles for all city zoning issues. Councilman Tom Bruno says he supports wind farms, but believes it's important that they not be built close to areas the city has slated for future development.

"I think that sound planning would have these wind farms, if they're appropriate for Champaign County, be built at a little safer distance from what is already inhabited municipality to allow for years of possible future growth without the conflict between wind turbines and residential housing," Bruno said.

Bruno supported a protest of the county board proposal, but the measure was narrowly defeated, 5 to 4. By the same margin, the Champaign City Council passed a resolution asking the county board to simply give them the 2-and-a-half mile zoning buffer. It's a request that's already been turned down by the county board's Environment and Land Use Committee. The full Champaign County Board will consider the wind farm proposal Thursday night.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 14, 2009

Local Chrysler Dealers Find Out Their Potential Fate

Chrysler is closing one out of every four of its dealerships, and the effect will be felt in central Illinois.

O'Brien Auto Group's Chrysler dealership in Urbana is on a list of nearly 800 closures, as are the Chrysler and Jeep franchises at Danville's Carmack Car Capitol and all Chrysler brands at Tuscola's Four Seasons Auto Plaza. Decatur-based Bob Ridings is losing Chrysler brands at its main dealership as well as those in Taylorville and Jacksonville. The owner of the Carmack firm in Danville, Gary Knight, said he was not expecting to see the notice from Chrysler but had no further comment - neither did a spokesman for Four Seasons.

Chrysler has about 3,200 dealers, but the bankrupt automaker says that's too many. It wants to have stronger, more profitable dealers with better facilities.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 12, 2009

New Company Hopes to Hire Some Laid-off Paxton Workers

The Baltimore Aircoil plant in Paxton will close its gates by the end of June, and all 223 workers will be laid off. But the city says it can save at least some of the jobs.

Mayor William Ingold says another manufacturing company ... Colmac Industries... will locate in the city and is going to use parts of the Baltimore Aircoil building:

"They're going to retain one of the lines that was used by Baltimore Aircoil, and they'll retain 20 to 25 employees right away with more coming online later on and keeping the plant going to a certain extent," Ingold said.

Ingold says the city council has approved a $375,000 low-interest loan to create jobs at the Colmac Industries plant - he says former Baltimore Aircoil workers may qualify for those jobs. The company plans to start manufacturing as soon as possible.

Ingold says he still doesn't understand why Baltimore Aircoil feels the need to close.

Categories: Business, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 11, 2009

Champaign Wants a Bigger Buffer Zone for Outlying Wind Turbines

The Champaign County Board is expected to vote this month on a proposal to allow the development of wind turbine farms on agricultural land. Some Champaign city officials say that's fine with them --- if the county inserts a new rule to keeping the wind farms further away from the city.

Champaign and other communities already have a mile and a half around their borders where they can overrule the county on zoning. It's called 'extra-territorial jurisdiction" or ETJ. For wind farms, Champaign city planners and the city Plan Commission recommend asking the county for an additional mile of ETJ. Land Development Manager Lorrie Pearson says they want to make sure the city can grow without bumping up against a wind farm. "Whereas today if a wind farm is located immediately adjacent to the ETJ, in the future it may actually be within the ETJ or perhaps even within our growth area," Pearson said. "So we want to really look at how our city grows and have that be more consistent with our comprehensive plan rather it be regulated by wind farms that are existing within our county."

The Champaign City Council hasn't discussed the matter yet, but the County Board's Environment and Land Use Committee will look at the ETJ request at their meeting tonight, prior to a county board vote next week. Committee Chair Barb Wysocki isn't commenting on the idea. But she says the current proposals for Champaign County wind farms would be built well away from Champaign.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 28, 2009

Christie Clinic Settles with State Over Medicaid Patient Lawsuit

Christie Clinic has joined Carle Clinic in agreeing to increase the number of Medicaid patients it accepts for treatment.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan sued the two Champaign-Urbana medical clinics two years ago - claiming they conspired illegally to stop accepting new Medicaid patients. Carle settled with the state last December. And late yesterday (Monday), the attorney general's office announced Christie had done the same.

Under the settlement, Christie Clinic will increase the number of Medicaid patients it takes in for primary health care to 85-hundred over the next three years. And those patients can't be turned away for existing medical debt for a four-year period prior to the state's lawsuit --- that's when the attorney general says qualified Medicaid patients were turned away. Christie will also make payments to Frances Nelson Health Center and the Champaign Urbana Public Health District to help pay for medical and dental care for low-income patients.

Christie spokeswoman Karen Blatzer denies that happened, and she said the suit was settled to curb costs. "We don't want the perception to be that we are guilty. But we feel that it is more important to provide the health care our community needs, and being involved in this lawsuit was expensive and very distracting," Blatzer said.

Blatzer did not know how much the additional Medicaid patient load would cost Christie. The clinic has agreed to increase its Medicaid patient rolls to 85-hundred by 2012.

Blatzer says the payments to Frances Nelson Health Center and the Champaign Urbana Public Health District equal when Christie has given to them in the past.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 24, 2009

Future of Urbana’s Historic Lincoln Hotel Still Up in the Air

An Urbana city official says the owner of the Historic Lincoln Hotel and the bank that foreclosed on the property are still in negotiations.

Economic Development Manager Tom Carrino says Marine Bank and Global Hotel Management are still talking, with hopes of transferring the bank's ownership back to the company.

Carrino says he spoke with both sides on Friday, a day after a company subsidiary that owned the hotel filed for Chapter Seven bankruptcy. The filing automatically canceled a sheriff's foreclosure sale that had been scheduled for Friday.

The Historic Lincoln Hotel closed last month, after Marine Bank foreclosed on the property. Despite that, Global Hotel Management announced plans to renovate the building and open it with a new operator next year. The hotel in downtown Urbana was designed by local architect Joseph Royer and first opened in the 1920s.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 21, 2009

Gov. Quinn’s Appointment for a State Board Steps Down

A doctor recently appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn to lead a scandal-plagued state board has withdrawn from the job because of a conflict of interest.

Quinn's office announced Tuesday that Dr. Quentin Young withdrew as chairman of the Health Facilities Planning Board because he has a minority interest in a doctor's office that owns property being leased to a health care system. Young says he is stepping down willingly.

Under state law, board members can't have business relationships with health care institutions. Young identified the conflict after his appointment last week.

Quinn had tapped Young to help resurrect the image of the board, which was caught up in the scandal that helped bring down former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 20, 2009

Money Smart Week” Focuses on Financial Literacy

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.

Categories: Business, Economics, Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 16, 2009

Shopping Mall Powerhouse Files for Bankruptcy Protection

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)

Categories: Business, Economics

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