Economy forces electrical workers' credit union to merge with UI

CHAMPAIGN – This year didn't get off to a good start for the Electrical Workers 601 Credit Union in Champaign.

The 54-year-old credit union, with 815 members, reported a staggering $202,000 loss for the first quarter of 2008. The credit union had a high percentage of loans classified as "nonperforming" – loans where principal and interest payments weren't being met.

Where have timbered areas crucial in state's settlement gone?

With a sweltering sun high overhead and the air thick and stifling, David and Jane Patton cup their hands over their eyes and look out over the vast prairie.

In the distance, perhaps 5 miles away – it is difficult to tell – is a timbered area. The couple and their children, along with two cows, four horses, chickens and turkeys, aim their wagons at the prairie grove. This timbered area around the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River in northeastern Champaign and southeastern Ford County, known as Sugar Grove, will be where they will build their log cabin.

Basmati restaurant will close at the end of July

CHAMPAIGN – Basmati Indian Cuisine at 302 S. First St. will close at the end of this month.

Basmati's chief operating officer, Vincent Rodriguez, said the restaurant has been under pressure trying to keep the kitchen staffed with Indian cooks. And the state of the economy has only made problems worse.

Resale shop at Lincoln Square to benefit women's shelter

URBANA – A new resale shop sponsored by a Champaign shelter could help homeless women make the transition to a new life.

Appropriately called "Transitions," the store will be run by the Center for Women in Transition, which provides housing to homeless women and children and programs to get them back on their feet.

Two Charleston residents convicted of tax fraud conspiracy

PEORIA – A federal jury found two Charleston residents guilty of tax fraud conspiracy earlier this week.

Kenton W. Tylman and Debra J. Hills, both of Charleston, and Brent A. Winters, of California, were accused of hiding nearly $7.3 million in income from the Internal Revenue Service through the sale of sham trusts and financial packages.

Champaign County's jobless rate at highest in 18 years

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign County's unemployment rate has jumped to the highest point in at least 18 years – and is no longer one of the lowest in the state.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security reported Thursday that 6.5 percent of the county's labor force was out of work and looking for a job in June. That was up from 4.9 percent in May.

Champaign votes to pursue buying Urban League land

CHAMPAIGN – The city will pursue the purchase of property at the southeast corner of Neil Street and Bradley Avenue for future redevelopment.

During a city council study session Tuesday night, the council voted unanimously to direct city staff to pursue purchase of the property from its current owner, the Urban League of Champaign County.

First Busey blames Florida market for 65% drop in earnings

URBANA – First Busey Corp. took a big hit as its second-quarter earnings dropped 65 percent from the same period a year ago.

The Urbana-based bank holding company attributed many of its problems to its southwest Florida market, where a once-hot housing market turned sour last year.

Economic seminar cites positives in Ford County

GIBSON CITY – With rising agricultural output and increased property values, employment and retail sales, Ed Scharlau said the glass is more than half full economically in Ford County.

"Very few counties the size of Ford County in the United States would have positive figures like these," said Scharlau, vice chairman of Urbana-based First Busey Corp. Scharlau spoke to about 70 community leaders last week at a Busey Bank economic seminar held at the Railside Golf Club in Gibson City.

Sears looking for dealer-store growth in small towns

CHAMPAIGN – In an age when many retail chains are downsizing, Sears is looking to expand its network of dealer-owned stores in small towns – including several in East Central Illinois.

Specifically, Sears is looking for people interested in opening Sears Dealer Stores in Clinton, Monticello, Paris, Rantoul and Watseka, said Jon Phillips, director of new store development for Sears Dealer Stores.