Business roundup: First Financial to expand Illinois footprint
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — First Financial Bank has agreed to acquire seven branches and two drive-up locations in central and southern Illinois from Bank of America, First Financial announced Tuesday.
The branches are in Mattoon, Charleston, Hillsboro, Mount Vernon, Salem, Benton and West Frankfort.
"The opportunity made sense for us because it supports our long-term strategy of expanding into areas that we already know well," said Donald E. Smith, chairman of the bank's parent company, First Financial Corp.
"The new locations are a natural extension of First Financial Bank's existing footprint and will allow us to strengthen our regional presence in Illinois," he said.
Terre Haute-based First Financial already has a branch in Charleston, as well as offices in Champaign, Urbana, Mahomet, Danville, Westville, Ridge Farm, Bloomington, Downs, Gridley and Pontiac.
Its other locations in Illinois include Marshall, Newton, Oblong, Robinson, Olney, Fairfield and Lawrenceville.
Under the agreement, First Financial will acquire $252 million in deposits and $2.3 million in small business loans — but no credit card, mortgage, investment brokerage or trust accounts.
The transaction is expected to be completed in the third quarter of this year, subject to regulatory approval.
Spinlight wins Parents' Choice awards
CHAMPAIGN — Champaign-based Spinlight Studio has received a 2013 Parents' Choice Gold Award for its mobile app Geography Drive USA.
The cross-country quiz game for players 8 and up was recognized by the Parents' Choice Foundation, which has helped parents discover the best in children's education for 35 years.
Another Spinlight mobile app — Swapsies, a mix-and-match game that helps children learn about 10 occupations — received a "recommended" rating from the foundation.
Separately, Geography Drive USA also earned an Editor's Choice Award from Children's Technology Review.
Another app — AlphaTots, which won a Parents' Choice Award in 2012 — was recently selected as the best app for preschoolers in Jinny Gudmundsen's new book "iPad Apps for Kids for Dummies."
Later this month, Spinlight plans to release its 10th title, this time focusing on spelling and early reading.
"There are at least 30 titles in our current pipeline," said Spinlight CEO and co-founder Matt Hutton in a release, "and we're working as fast as possible to bring them to our growing list of fans."
Cozad competition semi-finalists announced
URBANA — Twenty teams at the University of Illinois have been named semi-finalists in the 2013 Cozad New Venture Competition.
The 20 teams will eventually be pared to 10 finalists that will compete for about $100,000 in prizes.
The competition, coordinated by the UI's Technology Entrepreneur Center, invites teams to come up with novel plans for sustainable businesses.
Students, researchers and community members can take part in the competition, but every team must have at least one UI student.
Only students can present the business plans and answer questions from judges during the finals, scheduled for April 13.
Semifinalists include: Alive 'n Well, BenchStats, CELLular Diagnostics, Decanto, Energy and Carbon Productivity Solutions, Farm Hand, FoundersAlley, Freyr Technologies, Global Petals LLC, Knobius, MagSecure, Marrow Plants, Muzapp, Reroute, Servabo, Speakeasy, Story Bolts, The SuperGirl Group, Toolkitt and Wedlum.
The annual competition was created in memory of local entrepreneur V. Dale Cozad.