Decatur

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Amanda Vinicky

Gov. Bruce Rauner's right-to-work proposal will get a hearing today in the Illinois House. Unions are putting pressure on lawmakers to vote against the proposal.

Though the Illinois House is set to vote on the Republican governor's idea of local right-to-work zones, it's not because Rauner's pushing for a vote.

Gov. Rauner unveiled the concept in late January, during an appearance in Decatur, and has talked about it a lot since. But no actual legislation's been introduced. There are only weeks left in the legislative session.

This week we bring you info for a vintage shop tour on Saturday in Springfield that is offering customers free charms to make jewelry with (flyer is posted in this post, more info here).  That event also includes Incredibly Delicious! PLUS: 

Amanda Vinicky

Gov. Bruce Rauner amped up his anti-union rhetoric Tuesday at a speech in Decatur, a city with deep labor roots.  The Republican bemoaned prevailing wage  requirements on public projects for costing the state extra, said Project Labor Agreements are synonymous with "uncompetitive bidding" and introduced a plan to create local right-to-work zones.  

Unions are on edge about what Rauner has in store for them. He has railed against “government union bosses,” and names Indiana's former Gov. Mitch Daniels as a political role model. It's Daniels who made Indiana a right-to-work state.

flickr: EdenJanineJim

Getting more kids into pre-school might not solve all the problems, but there is mounting evidence that it can help ensure a child gets off to a good start. 

However, some communities struggle to get more youngsters into early learning.  

The Education Coalition of Macon County has studied the issue there and found some pressing needs when it comes to early childhood education. 

Sarah Bjelland is the group's Research and Data Manager.

Decatur's unemployment rate showed the biggest drop in the nation from a year ago. However that does not mean more people are working.

The jobless rate in Decatur is tied for the highest in the state with Rockford,  but the drop of  3.1% was the biggest decrease in the nation according to the federal agency that monitors such things.  

Richland Community College

Decatur is among the finalists for a national agriculture research center.  

The (Decatur) Herald & Review reports Thursday (http://bit.ly/1yyldBp ) that the National Corn Growers Association wants to create a facility to support and develop farming research.  

Richard Vierling is head of the Corn Growers research and development team. He said Thursday that Fargo, North Dakota, is the other city in the running for the National Agriculture Genotyping Center.  
The facility would translate scientific discoveries into production improvement.  

Decatur Park District

The Scovill Zoo in Decatur is getting nearly a half-million dollars in state grants to build a walk-through bird exhibit.   The money is part of a state grant program that will give out $20 million dollars in capital funds for facility improvements and added exhibits at museums operated by local governments and cities.

Scovill is also getting the funding for a crowned-crane exhibit, pavilion, ADA walkway and a generator.

Major attractions receiving money include the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum of Natural History and the Adler Planetarium.

Photo Credit http://www.innov8social.com @Innov8Social

Unemployment in the Springfield metro area last month dropped to its lowest level in 6 years.   The rate of 5.7 % is below both the state and national averages.   

The Illinois Department of Employment Security says the Springfield area added 2,000 jobs last month, mostly in construction, educational and health services and retail.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Charter schools have long been a divisive issue. Supporters say they allow schools to teach kids free of burdensome regulations.  Opponents say they take money away from traditional schools.  In Illinois this year, those views are colliding.  In the final installment of our series, we find out about the fight at the statehouse and what it might mean for charters:

flickr/loveMeagan

The City of Decatur has ended its voluntary request for water conservation.  That request was first made last October as Lake Decatur levels dropped due to the drought.  

But city leaders say it has risen two feet from its low point this winter and they anticipate additional rain in the next few weeks will bring the level higher. The lake reached a low point of 610.31 feet above sea level (50% full) on January 10.  But it now is above 612 feet (73%).  That is within the normal winter range. 

flickr/HAM guy

Central Illinois officials are expected to vote next month on whether to spend nearly $90 million on a massive dredging project in Lake Decatur.
 
The Herald & Review reports (http://bit.ly/1dvfQFI ) Decatur's city council is expected to vote on the project during their Feb. 3 meeting.
 
During a work session Tuesday, city manager Ryan McCrady said the effort would be ``the biggest project the city of Decatur has ever undertaken.''
 
Officials have said removing billions of gallons of sediment from the lake will

RepMitchell.com

An Illinois lawmaker says he wants Boeing Co. to build a new manufacturing plant in Decatur.  
The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises Newspapers reports (http://bit.ly/18GfBqF ) Forsyth Republican Rep. Bill Mitchell is hoping the Chicago-based aerospace company will build its new factory in the central Illinois community.  

Boeing is looking for a location to build its new 400-seat 777X jetliner.  
Boeing is looking at a $7 billion to $10 billion plant that would start with 3,250 workers in 2018 and grow to 8,500 by 2024.  

ilga.gov

While much of the attention was focused on pensions, state legislators yesterday also dealt with measures intended to get a trio of companies to call Illinois home. But they only got halfway there.

Decatur-based Archer Daniels Midland is shopping for a new world headquarters. The agribusiness giant may well choose Chicago; but it wants a tax break from Illinois, like in a measure approved by the Senate.

Peter Gray/WUIS

Farmer and philanthropist Howard G. Buffett had several messages for his hometown crowd this week. Among them?  "Everybody who is physically able" can do something to fight hunger.

Buffett spoke Tuesday before signing copies of his latest book, 40 Chances, at a fundraising event for Decatur area charities.  

Inmate Escapes From Macon Co. Jail

Oct 30, 2013
maconcountysheriff

A man about to be sent to prison for aggravated battery has escaped from the Macon County Jail in Decatur.  

The (Decatur) Herald & Review reports (http://bit.ly/1aISpvu ) that 25-year-old Schuyler McCoy escaped Wednesday and police have begun a search.  

Macon County Sheriff Tom Schneider tells the newspaper that McCoy escaped around 1:30 p.m. after identifying himself to correctional officers as a different inmate who was in the process of being released on bond.  

Data shows only 40% of 3rd grade students in Macon County are reading at grade level.  That same percentage applies to those in 11th grade.  1 of every 4 students also fails to graduate high school.  

The alarming statistics are similar to what many areas are facing.  The Education Coalition of Macon County is an initiative reviewing the problem and tying to find solutions.   That includes taking different approaches to what has become the standard for education.

ADM Incentives Vote On Hold

Oct 22, 2013
housedem.state.il.us

The sponsor of a bill to give Archer Daniels Midland Company up to $24 million in tax breaks to keep its headquarters in Illinois opted not to call it for a vote Tuesday.  

The House Revenue and Finance Committee had been scheduled to consider the bill. But Rep. John Bradley, a Democrat from Marion, took it off the agenda.  

Bradley says the incentives for ADM and several other companies ``are all under consideration.'' He declines to say when or if the bill will get a vote.  

Archer Daniels Midland is on the lookout for a new home for its world headquarters.  And it's not being limited to the midwest.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports ADM leaders met with Atlanta officials.

ADM has said it won't comment on sites in the running.   Other reports this week has the company looking at Minneapolis.  Chicago and St. Louis have also been mentioned as possibilities.

Millikin University

Millikin University in Decatur has a new president.  
Trustees at the school hired interim president Patrick White to take the post permanently. He began working in the interim position in July.  
The 64-year-old succeeds Rich Dunsworth, who also held the interim job after Harold Jeffcoat retired in January.  
White had worked as president of Wabash College in Indiana and says he's excited to make the Millikin position permanent.  

State Senator Andy Manar (D - Bunker Hill) is in his first term serving the 48th District.  It stretches from Springfield and Decatur south into Madison County.

Before he was elected, Manar spent time as Chief of Staff to Senate President John Cullerton and served as Chairman of the Macoupin County Board.

Manar sat down with WUIS' Sean Crawford to talk about some of the issues facing state government, including public pensions, tax incentives for ADM, education funding and how he was considered as a possible running mate to former gubernatorial candidate Bill Daley:

Quinn: Wrong Time For Tax Breaks

Oct 4, 2013

Gov. Pat Quinn says he will veto any legislation with special tax breaks to get Archer Daniels Midland Company to keep its global headquarters in Illinois until lawmakers address the state's pension crisis.  
In an interview with The Associated Press, Quinn says it's ``the wrong time'' to talk about tax incentives for any company.  
The Chicago Democrat says the best thing the Legislature can do to help ADM or other businesses is address Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension shortfall. He wants lawmakers to act when they meet later this month.  

Decatur Job Loss Part Of Negotiations On ADM Incentives

Oct 3, 2013

Senate President John Cullerton says any tax-incentive package to get Archer Daniels Midland Company to keep its headquarters in Illinois should include something to make up for the loss of jobs in Decatur.
 
ADM announced last week it was moving its global headquarters _ and 100 jobs _
out of Decatur. The company is asking the state for $20 million in tax breaks to
keep its headquarters in Illinois. Chicago officials have said the city is in
the running.
 
The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports (http://bit.ly/156Z8gp )

Plan To Keep Asian Carp Out Of Lake Decatur

Sep 26, 2013
flickr/mlinksva

The latest round of work on the Lake Decatur dam is underway and will include a barrier aimed at keeping invasive Asian carp at bay.  
The $4 million project is set to be finished by fall 2014.  
The (Decatur) Herald & Review reports (http://bit.ly/1beo5M0 ) the first phase of the project was completed in 2011.  
The latest round of work includes fixing concrete and repairing erosion damage. Meanwhile, crews will also remove a failed tailwater dam, which was built more than a century ago.  
Keith Alexander is director of water management in Decatur.  

ADM To Move Headquarters From Decatur

Sep 23, 2013
ADM

Agribusiness giant Archer Daniel Midland Company says that after 44 years in Decatur, Ill., it is looking for a new location for its headquarters.
 
CEO Patricia Woertz says in a news release Monday that ADM needs what she called a global center with better access to customers and employees around the world. 
The company says it doesn't plan layoffs and will keep a workforce of 4,400 in Decatur, which also will become ADM's North American headquarters.  ADM says the new headquarters would have about 100 employees.
 
ADM is the largest employer in Decatur.

Farm Progress Show: Large Crowds, No Records

Sep 2, 2013
Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Radio

Organizers of this year's Farm Progress Show say they'll wait to decide whether to keep an onsite annex when the nation's largest outdoor farm show returns to Decatur in 2015.  
This year's three-day show had about 600 vendors _ the most in its 60 year history. With so many vendors, organizers added an annex for new exhibitors.  

Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media

Hot weather has been greeting visitors to this years Farm Progress Show in Decatur.  And as the show enters its final day Thursday, the head of a national trade group says weather is also on the mind of midwest farmers attending the event. 

DCEO
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Thursday's unemployment numbers show Decatur is once again lagging the rest of Illinois. That long-term trend is partly responsible for a new law aimed at changing the way Illinois handles economic development.

In Decatur, 13.2 percent of job-seekers can't find work. State Sen. Andy Manar — a Democrat whose district includes Decatur — says that's part of the reason he thought it was time to blow up the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and start over.

flickr/ptooey

Illinois has the second highest unemployment rate in the nation.  And Decatur has the highest in the state.

Caterpillar announced hundreds of layoffs this summer and that is now showing up in the jobless rate.  Decatur's rate has gone up to 13.2 percent, 2 full percentage points above where it was a year ago.  And it's also at the highest level it's been this time of year in about three decades.  

Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

Five years ago, Howard G. Buffett was at a meeting of an international food aid agency when he was told that feeding the millions of starving people in Africa was simple.

Just give them better seeds, someone said.

That advice might work on some philanthropists. But Buffett, son of billionaire Warren Buffett, happens to be an Illinois farmer.

“This guy was explaining to me how to farm and he’d never been on a farm in his life,” he said. “So it really kind of irritated me. I came home and said, ‘OK, I’m going to have data to show these guys.’”

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