Towns slated to receive broadband service

CHAMPAIGN – Rural residents in seven area communities could get broadband Internet service within the next five years.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Undersecretary Thomas Door announced Wednesday that Open Range Communications, based in Denver, will receive a $267 million loan from the Department of Agriculture to provide broadband service to 518 rural communities in 17 states.

Plan for North First retail plaza gains OK

CHAMPAIGN – North First Street will likely be getting a convenience store in coming months, after the city council gave its tentative approval to a proposal to develop a small retail plaza with three upstairs apartments.

Council members voted 8-0 Tuesday night to direct city staff to negotiate a development agreement for 306 and 306.5 N. First St. with Robert Hambrick Sr.

Free, daylong seminar will demonstrate Mathematica program

CHAMPAIGN – Business owners and researchers will get a chance to see how to run gridMathematica on the Windows HPC server at a free seminar next Tuesday.

The daylong seminar, hosted by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, will demonstrate how those systems work together to solve numeric and symbolic problems in science, engineering, finance and research. It's targeted toward anyone interested in learning how parallel computing can benefit those fields.

Vermilion County car dealership moving, merging

DANVILLE – Next week, the Vermilion Chevrolet Cadillac dealership will leave its longtime north Danville location to merge with Royal Buick Pontiac GMC in Tilton.

Shapland Automotive LLC, owner of Vermilion Chevrolet Cadillac, 3533 N. Vermilion St., Danville, has reached an agreement to buy the Royal dealership at 1615 Georgetown Road, Tilton.

OK sought from Champaign council for plaza on North First

CHAMPAIGN – A businessman from Champaign is seeking a city council nod to develop a small plaza on North First Street with three upstairs apartments.

Robert Hambrick Sr., 67, who operates the Hambrick & Son Funeral Home, 203 N. Market St., C, with his son, Robert Hambrick Jr., has approached city planners about developing what would be called Hambrick Plaza at 306 and 306.5 N. First St.

Gold's rise has jewelers making changes in business

CHAMPAIGN – Jewelers say the public's appetite for gold jewelry hasn't abated, even though the price of gold has climbed from $600 an ounce a year ago to $1,000 an ounce earlier this month.

"We're still selling – it's amazing to me," said Jim Greenfield, president of Spritz Jewelers in downtown Champaign.

Officials concerned about Amtrak service to Chicago

Ehab Samy, 22, was sitting in the lobby on the second floor at Illinois Terminal in downtown Champaign recently, waiting for a late-morning Amtrak train to Chicago.

A University of Illinois graduate with a degree in economics, Samy was headed for a job interview. The Champaign resident says he uses Amtrak to get to Chicago five or six times a year.

Music teacher makes a big production out of learning

The kindergarten students in Bob Smith's music class are up out of their seats, dancing around as they sing the jelly bean song. They jump up and down, rub their bellies, pat their heads and kick their legs.

"I need singers," Smith reminds them to sing as well as move. The song is a favorite of the children.

Builders eye vacant corner in Urbana

URBANA – A Danville company is planning to construct a new 31,000-square-foot, three-story retail and office building at the southwest corner of University and Lincoln avenues.

Urbana officials say the building will be built in an urban style, close to the northern sidewalk, and will provide an attractive gateway to the University of Illinois.

Biodiesel plant may be leased out

DANVILLE – A new group of investors is planning to take over the biodiesel production plant that was recently finished adjacent to Bunge's milling operation in Danville.

Deb Seidel, director of communications for Bunge North America, based in St. Louis, said an asset purchase agreement is being worked out between Biofuels Company of America LLC and Blackhawk Biofuels, a group of about 600 investors, including farmers and businessmen.