Grocery almost ready to open, but it needs a sidewalk first

CHAMPAIGN – The grand opening for the new County Market store near the Burnham 310 apartment building is less than two weeks away, and the store is about ready to go, officials say.

Except for that front sidewalk.

The sidewalk area near the store entrance is still dirt and gravel and, as of midweek, Burnham 310 developer The Pickus Companies hasn't yet hired a cement contractor. Highland Park-based The Pickus Companies is supposed to oversee installation of the streetscape along Springfield Avenue but didn't get the work finished this fall before cold weather set in, according to Louis Pickus, president of the company.

Customers saddened to hear bookstore has closed

SAVOY – Customers expressed sadness – and some concern over unused gift cards – now that Pages for All Ages is formally closed.

A new sign on the front of Pages for All Ages bookstore in Savoy says the store is closed for good, a casualty of the recession.

First Busey preliminarily approved for U.S. Treasury program

URBANA – First Busey Corp. has received preliminary approval to take part in the U.S. Treasury's Capital Purchase Program, but the Urbana-based banking company hasn't decided whether to do so.

The preliminary approval would allow the parent company of Busey Bank to issue the Treasury up to $100 million of senior preferred stock, plus warrants to buy common stock.

Danville mayor hopes to maintain services amid job cuts

DANVILLE – As city officials prepare to deliver the same services with fewer employees, Mayor Scott Eisenhauer hopes more cuts will not be necessary.

After announcing Tuesday night that 24 of the city's total 267 positions will be eliminated beginning Feb. 27, the mayor said challenges are still ahead as police and fire pensions continue to rise along with health insurance premiums and the cost of road-repair materials and utilities.

Layoffs don't surprise Meadowbrook Farms' area investors

RANTOUL – Farmers Dan and Jane Coulter of rural Paxton originally forked over $900 a share to invest in Meadowbrook Farms when the cooperative's $28 million Rantoul pork-processing plant opened in January 2004.

The Coulters said they weren't surprised to learn that the company was laying off 600 workers this week.

Pages for All Ages a victim of recession

SAVOY – A new sign is posted on the front of Pages for All Ages bookstore in Savoy. It says the store is closed for good, a casualty of the recession.

"It is with great sadness that we announce the closing of Pages for All Ages Bookstore Inc. after serving the Champaign-Urbana-Savoy area for over 20 years," the notice posted out front says.

Pork plant in Rantoul temporarily lays off 600

RANTOUL – A pork-processing plant here temporarily laid off its 600 workers as it faces a cash-flow crunch.

A default on a contract left Meadowbrook Farms with $4 million to $5 million in losses, which crippled the cooperative's working cash flow, Meadowbrook board Chairman Roger Walk said.

UI flash index's January reading confirms recession

URBANA – The latest reading of the University of Illinois flash economic index clinches it.

"If there were ever any doubts, the January index shows that the state's economy is clearly in recession like the rest of the country," said UI economist J. Fred Giertz, who compiles the monthly index for the Institute of Government and Public Affairs.

Ford-Iroquois Farm Bureau sets price outlook meeting Feb. 16

GILMAN – The Ford-Iroquois Farm Bureau will host a commodity price outlook meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 16 at the Farm Bureau building in Gilman.

Champaign County officials to discuss ways to fill budget gap

URBANA – Champaign County officials won't rule out layoffs to meet a million-dollar deficit as bad economic news piles on.

County department heads will meet Thursday in advance of a 7 p.m. county board finance committee meeting at the Brookens Administrative Center, 1776 E. Washington St., U.