Shiloh school district looks for new superintendent

HUME – The Shiloh school board hopes to hire a new school superintendent by March.

The Catlin school board last month hired Shiloh Superintendent Gary Lewis to be superintendent in Catlin, after the resignation of Guy Banicki takes effect at the end of the school year.

Farmer City Council discusses issues in closed session

FARMER CITY – The Farmer City Council took no action Monday night but went into executive session to discuss "personnel business."

Asked to give a specific, numbered exception to the Illinois Open Meetings Act, neither City Manager Trent Smith nor Council President Delwin "Buster" Kirby could offer one, repeating only that "personnel business" was the reason for the closed meeting. Kirby said no action would be taken following the evening's closed session.

Tax abatements for Monsanto discussed

FARMER CITY – Blue Ridge school district board members voted Monday to allow Superintendent Jay Harnack to start discussions with officials of Monsanto's plant in Farmer City on the topic of enterprise zone abatement.

Joan Steckel, senior tax manager, and Pat Geneser, site manager from the Monsanto Co.'s Farmer City plant, presented a proposal to board members. Steckel and Geneser wanted board members to vote to grant 100 percent property tax abatement to Monsanto for a five-year period.

UI flash index: Economy shrinking for first time since March '04

URBANA – The University of Illinois flash economic index has fallen below 100 – the dividing line between economic expansion and contraction – for the first time in nearly five years.

The index, considered a barometer of the Illinois economy, dropped from 100 in November to 98.7 in December, a UI news release stated.

Champaign businesses feeling heat after Neil Street closure

CHAMPAIGN – The closure of North Neil Street in downtown Champaign nearly two months ago led to less-than-robust Christmas sales for some nearby retailers.

Meanwhile, city officials say they still don't know when Neil Street can be reopened.

The street was closed just south of the intersection with Main and Church streets on Nov. 10 because of concerns about the structural integrity of the three-story building at 215 N. Neil St. that was heavily damaged in a Nov. 7 fire.

Bad economic times, good gold prices turn pawns into kings

At Gold Rush II in Champaign, the store's name has been prescient. With gold prices on a relative upswing – listed at $877 an ounce midday Friday, according to the New York Mercantile Exchange – people have been selling or getting loans on gold.

For co-owner Don Crowder, that's been true at the shop at 41 E. Main St. He's found more people are trading in their gold – often in the form of necklaces and rings – for cash.

Curtis Road interchange still a mystery to most GPS devices

The woman's voice entreats you.

"In 500 feet, make a U-turn if possible."

You ignore the voice. It grows higher in pitch and louder in volume.

"Please make a U-turn NOW!"

You ignore her again, and drive onto Interstate 57 at Curtis Road.

You do this without the help of the disembodied voice in your GPS unit because it doesn't know there's an interchange at Interstate 57 and Curtis Road.

Local options can help those laid off get back on their feet

When Heatcraft management announced the Danville branch's closing, Ben Gabbard felt heartsick. Four months before the notice, he had led union negotiations, getting a three-year contract for the nearly 300 union employees.

Too soon after, the 21-year employee and longtime negotiator for United Auto Workers Local 1271 had to help negotiate another contract – for a layoff package, including benefits for nonunion employees at the company.

Rantoul chamber's new director carries a positive outlook

Last fall, Rantoul resident Chris Kaler became the executive director of the Rantoul Area Chamber of Commerce. Recently, News-Gazette staff writer Tim Mitchell sat down with Kaler at his office to talk about his career and the future of the chamber.

Q: Did you grow up here in Rantoul?

A: Yes, just about every longtime resident knows my family. My grandfather, Sig Kaler, was the postmaster here in Rantoul, and my dad, Jack Kaler, was a rural mail carrier in the Gifford area for 40 years. He used to love Christmas because all the farmers would give him homemade bread and rolls. My mom grew up in Thomasboro, and she worked the Mid-Continent telephone company in the dispatch area.

Champaign man opens drug-testing facility in Indianapolis

CHAMPAIGN – After a career as a regional research manager for Eli Lilly & Co., Champaign resident Mike Smiricky considered himself "too young to retire."

So Smiricky, who retired from Lilly four years ago, went back into business. In league with another former Lilly employee, William McGinnis, he opened a clinical research facility in Indianapolis last year.