Small business development lagging in Champaign County

Sarah Soenke/For CU-CitizenAccess.org— Champaign County small business development is still struggling under setbacks from the Great Recession and have not returned to pre-recession conditions, said a county economic development official.

Small business start-ups are still often unprepared for the amount of owner investment required by local commercial banks, said Kathy Larson, economic development specialist for the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission.

Weekly RoundUp: Minorities in the construction field

Last week, The News-Gazette reported that a Peoria-based construction company was ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution for falsely claiming it would hire minority subcontractors as part of winning multi-million dollar contracts for construction work at two state universities. Updated: $1.5 million restitution ordered in fraud by Lincoln Hall contractor

Journalist Dusty Rhodes covered the complex issue of minorities in the construction industry for CU-CitizenAccess in a multimedia project published in 2010.

Here, we revisit the series "Unlevel Foundation":

Housing Authority hopes 'Moving to Work' increases affordable housing options

By Robert Holly/For CU-CitizenAccess

The Housing Authority of Champaign County recently joined the Moving to Work program in an effort to increase jobs and education for those receiving federal assistance.

The federal program gives local housing authorities wider flexibility in how to use the millions of dollars they receive from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It also requires residents to seek employment or education if they want to continue receiving assistance.

Weekly Roundup: Raising the minimum wage

By Staff/CU-CitizenAccess.org

President Obama called for an increase in the minimum wage in his State of the Union address. He proposed raising the current federal minimum hourly pay rate, currently at $7.25, to $9.00. This chart by the Department of Labor shows the minimum wage rates by state. 

Illinois already has one of the highest minimum wages at $8.25. In his State of the State address on February 6, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn called for raising the state’s minimum wage to $10 over the next four years.

Here is a roundup of some recent news coverage that highlights the debate on the issues surrounding raising the minimum wage.

Successful business strategies revealed

By Britney Clapp / For CU-CitizenAccess.org -- Since 2008, the U.S. economy has taken a downfall, and many businesses have been forced to close. Fortunately, businesses in Champaign County have not been as permanently damaged.

“While the Champaign County has suffered since 2007, we were not hurt as much as most of the state and nation,” Cameron Moore, the chief executive officer of Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, said.  “We seem to be recovering faster than many areas and currently most economic indicators are trending up.”

Champaign County has a diverse economy, and overall, its general economic make up has not changed much since 2007 with many jobs coming from agriculture, health care and government.

“(We rely on those and) our position as regional commerce center to provide most of the energy for our local economy,” Moore said.

Increase in the Latino population draws more business to Rantoul

By Jeff Kelly Lowenstein/Hoy --  Rantoul is a town with a proud military heritage.

You see it on the name “Veterans Parkway” and the series of red, white and blue rectangular  banners that line the side of the street on telephone poles along Route 136.

Here is a tribute to Pfc. Jesse Kessler.  There is a flag honoring Sgt. Jason M. Berry.

You can read it on signs that point you to the Aviation Museum.