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.

A peach of a cobbler: Champaign woman's 50 years in shoe business

CHAMPAIGN – Shoes always have been a part of Erma Ballard's life. Her first job was in a shoe factory in Flora.

She learned how to repair shoes about 50 years ago and never stopped.

Former Air Force musicians spreading wings in C-U

Most people have weird notions about military bands, say Shawn and Darden Purcell. They think of John Philip Sousa and marching music, and bass drums and bugles.

Shawn, a guitarist, and Darden, a jazz vocalist, will tell you their experiences with the U.S. Air Force bands were quite different.

East Central Illinois banks weathering stormy times


CHAMPAIGN – It's a shaky time for the financial sector, with IndyMac Bank being taken over by the federal government and regulators taking extra steps to help prop up mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Stock prices have plummeted for many banks across the country, including Cleveland-based National City, which has four branches in Champaign-Urbana. And a few banks – but only a few – in East Central Illinois have reported quarterly losses this year or annual losses for last year.

Patrons sorry that Danville's Starbucks closing after only a year

DANVILLE – Sitting outside soaking up Friday's warm summer sun and an iced green tea from Starbucks, Robin Legittino was disappointed to know she may not have a Starbucks to visit the next time she's in Danville,

"It's part of my daily routine," said Legittino, who works for one of the largest chiropractic practices in Chicago and was in Danville on Friday doing some work at Genesis Chiropractic, 2807 N. Vermilion St.

Urbana to weigh AT&T offer to screen street-side boxes

URBANA – The city council will consider approval Monday of an agreement with AT&T that would pay the city $1,500 for every cabinet box the company installs on the public right of way – money that could be used to screen the cabinets with bushes and plants.

AT&T is in the process of installing a new service in Champaign-Urbana, called AT&T U-verse, where customers would be offered all-digital programming and high definition television channels.

Starbucks to close two stores in East Central Illinois

CHAMPAIGN – The Starbucks stores at Market Place Mall in Champaign and at 3100 N. Vermilion St., Danville, are among 600 company-operated stores slated to close, the company announced Thursday.

However, Starbucks has four other stores in Champaign-Urbana that will remain open. Those include stores at 102 N. Vine St., U; 503 E. Green St., C.; 2702 N. Prospect Ave., C; and the Meijer location at 2401 N. Prospect Ave., C.

Managed-care company buys HCH Administration Inc.

URBANA – The managed-care company launched by Carle Clinic nearly three decades ago is once again expanding beyond its home base in Urbana, this time picking up some 64,000 new members from a company in Peoria.

Health Alliance Medical Plans said it has finalized its purchase of HCH Administration Inc., a company that provides administrative services for employers with self-funded health benefit plans.