DACC workshops to help organizations go green

DANVILLE – Danville Area Community College, in partnership with the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, is providing a series of workshops on organizations becoming more "green."

The workshops will teach participants how to protect the environment and save money. The center is in the process of attaining continuing education units for these workshops, which will be open to large and small businesses, organizations, municipalities and others.

Marathon in jeopardy of losing permits without volunteers

CHAMPAIGN – The organizers of the Illinois Marathon will lose city special-event permits necessary to hold the April 11 race if they don't quickly come up with more traffic-assistance volunteers.

Casmar Events of Fargo, N.D., has been given until April 1 to come up with enough volunteers to cover 225 intersections in Champaign and Urbana that the marathon route will pass through. At this point, there are about 150 traffic volunteers and the event needs at least another 100 people, preferably 150 to 200 more, to hold the event safely, said Mark Knutson, executive director of the Illinois Marathon.

Busey's parent: Loss doubles as a result of writedowns

URBANA – Busey Bank's parent company lost $37.9 million in 2008 – more than double the $15.3 million it originally said it lost.

First Busey Corp. reported late Friday that it revised the figures as a result of a $22.6 million "goodwill impairment charge" it's taken against its Florida-based bank subsidiary, Busey Bank, N.A.

Businessman aims to help those who have lost jobs

PAXTON – One local man is not content to stand on the sidelines as his friends face difficult economic times.

In what he has termed a Perdueville Economic and Morale Stimulus Package, Phil Stagen of that community, a wide spot on Illinois 115 with a grain elevator, is inviting employees of Baltimore Aircoil and High Concrete and local drivers of the Fox and LeFebvre trucking companies, along with their families, to four days of free food, drinks, "mega March Madness" games on satellite TV, euchre and bean bag tournaments and music from March 19-22.

Casey's plan for new store upsetting property owners

URBANA – Jean Thompson has lived in her 1,300-square foot ranch in unincorporated east Urbana for 33 years.

Happily retired from a University of Illinois teaching job, she lives at 203 N. Smith Road with her two dogs, Sofie, a Brittany, and Jesse James, a collie-retriever mix. She stays busy writing fiction and also enjoys feeding birds and maintaining her extensive backyard garden.

"This has been a nice place to live and work," she said.

But Thompson is afraid her quiet way of life could soon fall by the wayside. Just south of her home is a one-acre piece of property fronting East University Avenue – currently home to an abandoned house, junk vehicles and large trees – where Casey's General Store wants to build a new 3,588-square foot store and gas station.

Visitors' bureau's ag experience attracting global visitors

CHAMPAIGN – For folks who live in central Illinois, a weeklong "agricultural experience" in the Prairie State may not have quite the allure of leisurely days on tropical beaches or the quiet beauty of the mountains.

But it apparently does to some Europeans and South Americans who have streamed to Illinois to enjoy cornfields, casinos and river cruises.

It's Your Business: Outdoor gear shop moving a bit north

Steve Smith always figured the retail spaces on Champaign's North Prospect Avenue were just too pricey for his family-owned store.

But the recession had a silver lining in it for him: A vacant space became available at an affordable leasing rate – and right between two big chain retailers, Lowes and Target.

'Quincy Jones of Cuba' back in U.S. with new All Stars

Known as the Quincy Jones of Cuba, Juan de Marcos Gonzalez – who founded the Buena Vista Social Club with American guitarist Ry Cooder – hopes Americans will be able to legally travel to his homeland someday to check out its vibrant music scene.

He admits he's chauvinistic in claiming that it's the best and most important one in the tropics, or Caribbean.

"There's a new wave of writers mixed with poets, street rappers and jazz players," he said, "and they make a kind of combination of everything based on Cuban music.

"And it sounds very good."

Gonzalez will bring his own Grammy-nominated and Grammy-winning Cuban music to the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday evening with his latest incarnation of the Afro-Cuban All Stars.

Group wants buyers out of their bunkers

CHAMPAIGN – Area business people who have seen cutbacks in consumer spending are wondering how much of that is based in fear.

"A lot are afraid of the future," said Mahomet IGA owner Brooks Marsh. "They have money to spend, but they don't have the confidence to do it."

On Friday, the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with other area business groups, launched a "Save Jobs. Shop Local. Spend Now" campaign to encourage responsible spending.

Several counties' jobless rates hit double digits

CHAMPAIGN – Unemployment rates for three area counties topped 10 percent in January, the Illinois Department of Employment Security reported.

Vermilion, Edgar and Iroquois counties – all of which are along the Indiana border – crossed into double-digit territory following the holiday shopping season.