UI student's facial-recognition technology wins $30,000

URBANA – For two years, John Wright has worked on ways to improve facial-recognition systems.

On Wednesday, those efforts paid off as the 26-year-old doctoral student won the Lemelson-Illinois Student Prize and the $30,000 that goes with it.

Some in Danville upset over paying bills on vacant houses

DANVILLE - John Cunningham has been trying to sell a house on Nicklaus Street in Danville for about eight months.

The house is vacant, but as of Jan. 1, Cunningham must pay monthly garbage and sewer fees totaling $34.25 even though no one is living there.

Video game firm THQ to close area facility; 86 to lose jobs

CHAMPAIGN – Video game developer THQ Inc. will close its quality-assurance facility in downtown Champaign later this year, with 86 employees destined to lose their jobs, the company said Tuesday.

Sixteen other workers from the facility will be retained as employees of Volition Inc., a THQ subsidiary in Champaign that already employs 236.

THQ's announcement "will not result in any layoffs at Volition," said Volition President Mike Kulas. Volition remains "a key development studio" within THQ and will continue to employ its full staff, he said.

Hoopeston grants TIF assistance to housing project

HOOPESTON – Hoopeston city officials agreed to give an affordable housing project $400,000 in financial assistance for infrastructure improvements to help build 25 single-family, two- and three-bedroom houses near Hoopeston Area High School.

The council voted 6-1 with one council member absent to give the housing project developers $400,000 from the city's tax-increment-financing fund, which is property-tax money that flows into city coffers from tax increment financing districts that have been set up within the city. Bill Goodwine voted against the project, and Brandon Hamilton was the council member who was absent.

Two Rantoul businesses awarded loans from village

RANTOUL – The village approved loans Tuesday for one business that is planning to expand and another that is moving to larger quarters.

The Rantoul Revolving Loan Committee voted 4-0 for a $125,000 loan to Arrow EDM Inc., 807 Veterans Parkway. The company makes electrical discharge machines for tool and die shops, molding shops and manufacturing plants.

Paxton man honored as master farmer by ag magazine

PAXTON – A Paxton man has been named a 2009 Master Farmer by Prairie Farmer magazine.

Rick Nelson of Paxton is one of five Illinois farmers selected as master farmers, said Josh Flint, an editor at the magazine.

Danville to offer TIF funds for facade work on businesses

DANVILLE – Danville businesses in tax-increment-financing districts can now get financial assistance from the city for facade and other exterior improvements, although some Danville aldermen wanted a little more council oversight when city officials award the funds.

The new program makes TIF money, which is property-tax revenue funneled into a special development fund, available to business owners in a TIF district or business owners moving into a TIF district. The financial assistance, which could be as much as $50,000, would be for smaller improvements, like facade changes, rather than the large infrastructure projects or renovations for which TIF money is typically used.

Bankers say many homeowners refinancing as rates drop

MAHOMET – Madeline Hoeft watched mortgage rates fall and saved more than $300 a month on her house payment by refinancing.

"It pays to watch the market," said Hoeft, who bought a home at Mahomet's Lakes at Riverbend subdivision four years ago.

Larger role expected for Alamo plant in Gibson City

GIBSON CITY – There will be "a larger role" for Alamo Group's manufacturing plant in Gibson City with the announced reorganization of the company's nationwide parts distribution, but the exact nature of that role has not been defined.

The new distribution structure will be put into action over a 90-day period and "additional staffing requirements are being evaluated," according to a company statement released Monday. Alamo officials in Gibson City declined to give specifics about employment numbers.

Eight UI engineering graduate students up for award

URBANA – Eight finalists have been selected for the $30,000 Lemelson-Illinois Student Prize, the winner of which will be announced Wednesday.

The finalists, all graduate students in the University of Illinois College of Engineering, are: