Stores use 'scrip' to promote local business

URBANA — Twenty-three businesses so far have agreed to participate in a program that would use "scrip" to promote local business.

The UC Smiles program plans to issue scrip — a substitute for currency — beginning in November. Participating retailers will offer promotions and discounts to customers using the scrip.

Strawberry Fields and International Galleries have offered their facilities as exchange stores for selling the UC Smiles scrip and converting it back into dollars, according to a release from UC Smiles.

The project is largely focused on downtown Urbana businesses, but Champaign businesses are welcome to take part as well, according to Tracy Satterthwaite and Seonmi Kim of UC Smiles. For more information, visit ucsmiles.org.

Farmer City, Heartland banks close merger

FARMER CITY — Customers of the former Farmer City State Bank will be able to use any branch of Heartland Bank and Trust beginning Oct. 1, as a result of Heartland's recent acquisition of the Farmer City bank.

The merger of the two banks was completed Aug. 24, but conversion of the Farmer City bank's systems won't be complete until Oct. 1. At that point, Heartland customers will also be able to use the Farmer City and Bellflower offices.

Both banks are owned by descendants of M.B. Drake, who started the family business of banking in 1914.

The merger allows Farmer City State Bank customers access to mobile banking and other services.

Heartland Bank & Trust, based in Bloomington, has offices in 30 communities in Illinois and northeast Missouri.

Celeb's endorsement boosts local firm's app

CHAMPAIGN — Soleil Moon Frye's endorsement of a locally produced Web application on NBC's "Today" show had an immediate effect on the app's popularity.

Last week, the former child star said her 4-year-old was obsessed by AlphaTots, an early education app developed by Champaign-based Spinlight. AlphaTots had been out for a year when Frye made the pronouncement, but the app shot up to the No. 2 spot in education that morning,

"It's hard to beat a celebrity endorsement," said Matt Hutton, creative director and partner at Spinlight.

Frye is probably best known as the star of "Punky Brewster," a sitcom that ran from 1984 to 1986 on NBC.

"It's funny to think someone you used to watch on TV is now watching you," Hutton said.

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