They've got a lot of people to please.
Farmers who want to preserve large tracts of land for growing corn and soybeans, farmers who want to retain the right to sell their land to developers, residents who live in rural subdivisions, developers, Realtors, environmentalists, urban planners. And who can forget about the private property rights advocates.
Two months after President Bush signed a comprehensive energy bill, a bill that calls for increasing production of alternative fuels like ethanol, several investors and companies are considering building ethanol plants in East Central Illinois.
Patrick Harroun of Thawville and his son, Andrew Harroun of Onarga, are proposing an ethanol plant for north of Roberts. A Dallas company called The Panda Group recently announced plans for a plant near Gilman. Alliance Grain Cooperative of Gibson City is considering building a plant in the region. And supporters of a plant for Tuscola are still mulling over the idea.
CHAMPAIGN – A year and a half ago, the Champaign-Urbana community agreed to offer as much as $1.35 million in revenue guarantees to persuade Delta Air Lines to begin service at Willard Airport.
At first, the tactic appeared to be a great success. Delta attracted a lot of passengers with introductory low-cost fares to its Cincinnati hub. The new service didn't seem to hurt ridership on other airlines serving Champaign-Urbana. Overall ridership at Willard increased.
CHAMPAIGN – For decades, Illini fans could always count on one thing (if not a victory) when they visited Memorial Stadium or Assembly Hall.
Just to the south was a sharp reminder – for the eyes and nose – of the rich agricultural heritage of the University of Illinois.
CHAMPAIGN – Sue Davis will focus her students' attention on farming to teach them lessons about mathematics, social studies and economics.
Hands-on lessons help Davis introduce concepts of geometry to second-graders. And she said thinking about farming also helps her young students understand their community.
If there are fewer farmers in the U.S., then perhaps there should be fewer Farm Service Agency offices.
That's the message being sent from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which recently announced a plan to close potentially hundreds of offices around the country and to modernize others.
BEMENT – If you're lucky enough to step inside a metal cage roughly 3 by 3 by 7 feet and ascend 120 feet inside the shaft of a grain elevator – before an employee compares grain elevators to sticks of dynamite, but after another worker watches the man-lift creep down the shaft and says, "It's getting closer and closer and the tension builds" – you'll be rewarded with some of the best views around.
It's not the Sears Tower, but the Topflight grain elevator in Bement, population 1,736, is this town's closest thing to a landmark and commercial hub.
URBANA – If you're harboring any notion of a real estate bubble, Jim Gillespie would like to pop it.
"Bubble" is the term some people use to describe a market in which prices are too high to be sustained. The "tech stock" bubble burst almost five years ago, and some folks fear today's high-flying home prices may presage a real estate bubble.