Business news roundup

Business news roundup

004 Technologies cited as 'best new company'

CHAMPAIGN — Champaign-based 004 Technologies USA recently won the 2012 Best New Company award from the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest.

The mobile application development firm is a subsidiary of 004 Beratungs Dienstleistungs GmbH, an e-commerce services firm in Aschaffenburg, Germany.

004 Technologies has done work for companies on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, including Horizon Hobby, the University of Illinois, Romtelecom and the FC Koln Football Club.

Its biggest project to date was development of a retail shopping iPad application for the Bild daily newspaper, released in December 2011.

Founded in June 2010, 004 Technologies is based on the third floor of the Church Street Square building, 206 N. Randolph St., C. The company has six full-time employees and two university interns.

Patrick MacKay, 004 Technologies' president, accepted the award May 4. He said the name of both the parent company and the subsidiary stemmed from the company's four cofounders.

One of the cofounders, Robert Hein, received two degrees from the University of Illilnois and is now CEO of the parent company, MacKay said.

Chromatin founder a finalist for Midwestern honors

CHAMPAIGN — Chromatin Inc. CEO Daphne Preuss is one of 34 finalists for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the Midwest.

Award winners will be announced June 21 in Chicago.

The finalists are all founders of companies based in Illinois and Indiana. The field includes 29 companies, five of which have two founders up for the award.

Chromatin, which has an office in the University of Illinois Research Park in Champaign, is a biotechnology company.

According to its website, Chromatin uses proprietary technology and sorghum seed products to develop feedstocks for renewable energy markets.

In January, the company was awarded $5.7 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop biofuels.

Regional award winners will be eligible for Ernst & Young's national awards program, which culminates with a ceremony Nov. 17 in Palm Springs, Calif.

Easton-Bell sees improved first quarter

VAN NUYS, Calif. — Easton-Bell Sports this week reported net income of $1.35 million in the first quarter, compared with a $62,000 net loss for the same quarter a year ago.

The company, which has a major production facility east of Rantoul, also reported higher net sales for the quarter — $216.3 million, compared with $203.4 million a year earlier.

Easton-Bell's Action Sports segment enjoyed a 5.5 percent increase in net sales. The company attributed it to a surge in sales of Giro and Bell cycling helmets to specialty stores, the introduction of Giro cycling shoes and increased sales of power sports helmets.

The Team Sports segment saw its net sales rise 7 percent from a year ago. The company credited the increase to market-share gains with Riddell football helmets and reconditioning services, plus increased sales of Easton baseball and softball bats.

Andersons sees 'challenging' second quarter

MAUMEE, Ohio — The CEO of The Andersons Inc. says the company is projecting this year to be its second-best ever, but the second quarter will be "challenging."

Mike Anderson said the Maumee, Ohio-based company expects its Grain Group to have a significant drop in wheat-space income during the second quarter, and its Ethanol and Plant Nutrient groups are anticipating lower margins.

Those factors should be partially offset by better performance by the Rail Group, he said.

This week, The Andersons reported net income attributable to the company of $18.4 million, compared with $17.3 million a year earlier.

Operating income increases were reported for the Grain Group, the Plant Nutrient Group and the Rail Group, while declines were reported for the Ethanol Group and the Turf & Specialty Group.

The company said its ethanol investment affiliates were hurt by lower margins. Those stemmed from increased industry production and lower demand led by declining exports.

On Friday, The Andersons announced a cash dividend of 15 cents a share payable July 23 to shareholders of record July 2.

The Andersons has grain handling and storage facilities in Champaign and Mansfield, among other places.

Partnership offers app for Champaign shoppers

CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign Center Partnership has launched a free mobile app for iPhone and Android mobile devices.

The "Center City Perks" app allows users to view perks — such as loyalty cards, discounts, events and announcements — offered by merchants in Campustown, downtown Champaign and Midtown Champaign.

Users can also redeem perks by scanning a QR ("Quick Response") code presented by merchants.

On the app, merchants can list unlimited perks and send out text message notifications to app users who have "followed" their business.

Other features of the app include:

— An events page that allows users to add downtown, Midtown and Campustown events to their personal calendar.

— A business directory that allows users to view walking directions, place a phone call to a merchant or visit the website of a merchant.

T.J. Blakeman, executive director of the Champaign Center Partnership, said the app has had 1,320 downloads and 324 redemptions in its first month. It can be downloaded through the organization's website, http://www.champaigncenter.com.

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