SmartSpark renames itself after star product, SolarBridge

CHAMPAIGN – A local technology company that's pinning its future on the solar-power industry has changed its name.

SmartSpark Energy Systems has adopted the name SolarBridge Technologies, the company announced Monday.

Duo fashions targets for police and military training, shooting ranges

BROADLANDS – In his home-based shop, you might find Steve Smith or his partner Dean Rothermel burning a chicken silhouette from 5/8-inch ballistic armor plate. As co-owners of a Broadlands-based shooting-target company called Rack Systems, the two childhood friends have been producing hand-machined, reactive steel targets since 2001.

Rack Systems has supplied specialty targets to police training academies, several federal agencies, prisons, the security departments of community colleges and rail transport companies – and occasionally to the public for personal sport-shooting range.

Zoning ruling won't affect couple's plans for orchard

DANVILLE – Lindsay and Marie Varner are forging ahead with their plans for an organic apple orchard on West Lake Boulevard on Danville's north side, despite the Danville planning and zoning commission's recommendation against changing the property's zoning from residential to agriculture.

Checks and Balances: Living large on a smaller budget

Has supporting your lifestyle come to feel like you're supporting another member of the family?

Take stock of your needs and wants, then prioritize your wants.

University Avenue business owners ready for streetscape

CHAMPAIGN – Mohammad AL-Heeti operates his World Harvest International & Gourmet Foods grocery store just off of one of Champaign's busiest streets, University Avenue.

So the store owner is excited that, starting next month, a major section of University Avenue, between Third and Wright streets, will undergo a comprehensive streetscape upgrade. The work will include resurfacing University Avenue and installing new curbs and gutters, sidewalks, streetlights and trees.

"It's time," AL-Heeti said. "It's one of the busiest streets, and it's an entrance to the city. It should look good."

UI delivering experience dealing with ethical dilemmas

CHAMPAIGN – It isn't polite to stuff a sock in your guest speaker's mouth. But Gretchen Winter must have been sorely tempted to do so last week.

Last week, a guest speaker whom her center helped bring to campus – Harry Markopolos – was asked his opinion of college ethics training.

Lincoln Square hosting used-records sale Saturday

The Vintage Vinyl sale, with thousands of used records, tapes and CDs offered for sale, takes place Saturday at Lincoln Square Village in Urbana.

An entrance fee of $5 will be charged from 8 to 11 a.m. Admission is free from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Champaign panel seeks to increase wind-farm buffer zone

CHAMPAIGN – City planning officials like the idea of using wind farms to generate electricity. They really do.

But not in the city's backyard.

At the city's plan commission meeting this week, members voted 5-0 to not protest a proposed county zoning ordinance text amendment that would allow wind farms in the county Agriculture 1 zoning district with approval of a special-use permit by the Champaign County Board.

Buildings, offices on EIU campus to close early Fridays

CHARLESTON – In an effort to save money, Eastern Illinois University will close some buildings and offices at noon Fridays during the summer.

The shorter hours begin Monday.

Gateway Studios tells residents they must move out

CHAMPAIGN – It was a Friday afternoon, generally a time for relaxing in anticipation of the weekend.

But the residents at Gateway Studios, 1505 N. Neil St., were anything but relaxed. Rumors began spreading Thursday that the company that owns the downtrodden former hotel – which rents rooms by the day, week or month – was far behind on its utility bills.