WUIS / SJ-R Business Report: Nov. 26, 2013
WUIS' Sean Crawford talks with the State Journal-Register's Tim Landis about outlet malls planned for Springfield. Are there enough shoppers to support all the stores?
We also discuss an expansion for Springfield Clinic and the shutdown of the final unionized mine in the state of Illinois.
I’m Sean Crawford and on today’s WUIS State Journal Register business report, we’ll talk about big retail projects planned for Springfield, and what does the closing of an area coal mine mean for the industry?
I’m joined by Tim Landis, business editor for the State Register.
SC: Let’s start by talking about Outlet malls, and we use that term plural because there’s more than one under discussion in Springfield.
TL: That’s right, we’ve been talking about the outlets at Springfield for several months now, there south of Scheels, just a month or so ago the sign and property group announced plans for a mall adjacent to White Oaks mall in Springfield. We’re talking of a total at least 100 stores, the preliminary plans are for 80 stores at the outlets of Springfield and 20 at the White Oaks mall property. That’s a lot of new stores in the market. They’re both trying to open at the same time next year.
SC: We know that a lot of people come in to Springfield to shop and people who live in Springfield do their shopping, but will there be enough people to support this new expansion?
TL: There’s folks that have their doubts. I talked to Mayor Houston about that, the city economic development director, Mike Farmer, and some of the retail folks. The key is to bring in tourist shoppers. The outlet malls serve as tourist destinations, but that’s still a lot of shoppers to get to town, so certainly there’s some anxiety out there among the small business owners.
SC: And we don’t know all of the stores that could occupy these outlets but we have heard a few of the names out there.
We have, things like Nike, American Eagle Outfitters, some of the big national change you might expect that could occupy these outlets. A company called J-Crew that is listed by both as possibilities so it may be conflicting if they’re going to have duplicate stores. That would seem to be kind of surprising, but there’s some real head-to-head competition going on here.
SC: Another expansion: Springfield Clinic and their physical therapy program
TL: Health Care seems to be constantly on the mover in Springfield and expansion a couple big hospital projects as we’ve talked about before. Springfield clinic has purchased a building on South 6th Street and Stevenson. They plan to move their physical therapy service there and basically double the space, so that shows you the kind of demand that they’re anticipating.
SC: We had a mine closure in the area, a mine in Girard that is shutting down. What’s really surprising about this and I think it surprised you as well, was that this was the last union mine that was operating in the state of Illinois.
TL: Yeah I can tell you Sean when I started out in journalism in Southern Illinois; I was a coal mine reporter and the United Mine Workers was a force to be reckoned with, both politically and a labor standpoint. The closing of the mine in Girard will be the last of the United Mine Worker mines in Illinois. Not that long ago it would have been hard to imagine.
SC: Of course the mine industry has struggled because of the sulfur content in the coal. A lot of people can’t burn it because of pollution laws. Is there any reason to believe that Illinois may be closer to rejuvenating that industry that was once so dominant?
TL: That’s been one of the ironies in this if you watch the coal production numbers in the last couple of years. They’ve actually been up, Illinois. They’re producing more coal, as with many industries it does not take as many workers and a good chunk of that coal is going out of state. So this is really a transformation within the industry than the overall coal production being down. In this case Tri County Coal here in Springfield lost a contract with Archer Daniels Midland and that’s resulting in the layoffs of 190 miners.