Friday, July 15, 2016

IV Unemployment Rate Reaching Pre-Recession Levels

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
The Illinois Valley unemployment rate is reaching pre-recession levels, but it’s not because there are more jobs in the area.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate is at 6.5 percent for the tri-county area, one of the lowest totals in the past five years.

A shrinking labor force has resulted in the decline of the unemployment rate, as the number of jobs in the area has stayed relatively flat. The labor force dropped from a peak of about 86,000 potential workers in 2010 to 77,000 currently. During that same span the number of jobs went from 76,000 to 73,000.

But what impact does that have on the work force in the Illinois Valley?

Still hunting for jobs skills
While the labor force might be shrinking, the number of people looking to gain work skills has not. Pam Furlan, executive director with the Business Employment Skills Team, said BEST has had as many clients as ever.

“I’m not sure we’ve seen a decline. I think we’ve seen an increase in the number of people that are looking for training,” she said. “In that sense I think we might be working against the trend.”

More people underemployed?
The Illinois Valley typically has average wages lower than the national average. With a lower cost of living in the area compared to an urban setting, people do not need to make as much money.

However, the result might mean some are settling for positions and underutilizing their job training.

“Though the unemployment rate is lower, we feel a lot of people in the area might be underemployed. They’re taking jobs they might be overqualified for so they can make ends meet,” said Jennifer Scheri with the Business and Training Center at Illinois Valley Community College. “Because of that we feel that the unemployment number is deceiving, unfortunately.”

Need For manufacturing
At American Nickeloid in Peru, a majority of employees were near retirement age, according to a recent NewsTribune story. That trend is not uncommon across the area.

“They’re certainly not alone. We hear that all across the region and not just in manufacturing, but in all sectors where age can be a factor,” Furlan said.

And IVCC is aware of this trend. Scheri said local business have reached out to the school to promote more people going into skilled trades.

“We’re getting a lot of requests for training people in manufacturing,” Scheri said. “There is a great shortage of skilled workers in maintenance and electrical. It’s not because of the creation of new jobs but because of the high number of retirees.”

Adam Pacholski, the general manager at Aqua Control Inc. in Spring Valley said the problem might be replacing experience, instead of just replacing workers.

“We can find new people to work, but it’s replacing the 20 years of experience a worker has,” he said.

Different Strokes for Different Folks
Even breaking down the labor force to the three-county area can be problematic because different cities are all doing different things for job creation.

The city of Peru continues to grab the attention of different retail stores, which Peru’s economic development director Bob Vickery said retail sales have toped $600 million in the past 12 months.

“Retail leads the way for us for sure,” he said. “I think Peru is going against the labor force trend in the area and if you controlled it specifically to our area code, you would likely see job creation. What’s good for one is good for all.”

Communities like Utica heavily promote the tourism industry, and the village of Hennepin has a vast space open for industry.

“You really need to look at all sectors. You can’t ignore anything, whether it’s tourism, retail or industry. You have to have a balance,” said Debb Ladgenski, coordinator for the newly formed Economic Development Council of North Central Illinois and Spring Valley economic development director.

Source: News Tribune


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Severe Storm Packs a Punch Throughout Illinois Valley

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
A severe thunderstorm swept through the Illinois Valley, causing mostly tree and power line damage but also causing damage to a gas station awning that caused Clock Tower Shell in Peru to close for the evening. Power lines were reported down in the Princeton, Varna and Bradford areas; the Marshall-Putnam County Fairgrounds was evacuated.

Strong winds and lots of lightning were being delivered by that one, and a quarter-sized hail was possible in a warning for the Streator area until 6:15 p.m.

Ameren Illinois reported more than 1,200 customers without power as of about 6:20 p.m., including much of Dimmick and Waltham Township and some in the Ottawa area, as well as north La Salle. Radar indicated some of the most severe weather passed north of Interstate 80.

Before the storm arrived at La Salle-Peru, Ameren reported a power outage to the south of the fairgrounds and east of the Illinois River in the Lacon area and rural Henry areas. Ameren reported 13 percent of its customers without power as of 6:20 p.m. ComEd reported isolated outages in the Sublette and Streator areas.

Strong winds and lots of lightning were being delivered by that storm cell, and quarter-sized hail was possible in a warning for the Streator area in effect until 6:15 p.m.

A rain gauge at Hall High School had measured more than an inch of rainfall in an extremely short period of time, as of 5 p.m.

The storm moving at 45 mph and capable of producing 60-mph winds and cloud-to-ground lightning had struck a building at Amboy as well as items in a backyard near Oak Ridge Golf Course between Utica and La Salle, sparking a fire. Utica firefighters were heading to a transformer fire at 5 p.m., and reported rain-runoff water covering the Route 178-Utica Shortcut intersection at the base of the bluff at 5:20 p.m. Naplate firefighters were being called to assist Utica, and Peru firefighters were called to man the La Salle station.

Severe wind damage was reported to the awning over the gas pumps at the Clock Tower Shell north of Interstate 80 at Route 251 on the north side of Peru. An employee there said they were working to keep people out from under the broken portion of the canopy until caution tape could be put out to keep people away.

Water was not yet receding as of 5:50 p.m. at frequently-inundated locations, such as Brunner Street in Peru between the railroad tracks at the La Salle city limits (near Monari’s 101 Club) westward toward Water Street.

Source: News Tribune


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Farm 'Cat Rat' Rat Rod Draws Attention at Car Show

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
It wasn’t the most beautiful contraption at the Hennepin Fourth of July car show, but then again, its creator had no intention whatsoever of making it shiny.

Mike Sauter’s “Cat Rat” — a conglomeration of farm vehicles, parts and even items from the pantry — stood out as the most unusual vehicle at the show.

“I started this the week before I started school at ISU and I drove it to school the week of graduation,” said Sauter, a young farmer who earned his agriculture degree at Illinois State and previously attended Illinois Valley Community College.

He named his Transformers-like vehicle Cat Rat because it has a 636-cubic-inch Caterpillar engine from a fertilizer spreader and it’s cobbled together like the cars hot-rodders made from spare parts called rat rods. The cab is from a 1950 Dodge 1½-ton grain truck, the rear box is from another truck, the front grille is from an Oliver tractor (something he and his family collect) and the chassis is from a 1986 F350 truck. He made the rear fenders from 15-weight and 30-weight oil drums. He accented the engine compartment with chains from a corn harvesting head, and his gas pedal is from a sickle second from a bean head.

Oh, and he used Progresso soup cans as cup holders.

It’s not a traditional vehicle, but the young farmer certainly is following the American farming tradition of welding whatever you might find together to keep ’em running.

Source: News Tribune


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

50/50 Prize Money Unclaimed

The 50/50 prize money is still unclaimed! Do you have the winning number of 04499?

Please stop by the Village Hall if you do!


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Hennepin Teen Chases Dream of Going to West Point

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
Five years ago, when most kids were dreaming about becoming the next Ryan Braun or Kobe Bryant, the now-17-year-old Owen Mallery, of rural Hennepin, was practicing his marching skills and looking up West Point information online.

Mallery, who recent traveled to the famed United States Army Academy for the week long Summer Leaders Experience, has been hoping for his chance to attend both the prestigious camp and academy every since.

 “It’s always been a dream for me. When I was in seventh grade, I signed up for their notifications and I had seen in your junior year you could apply for the SLE, and then when I saw that, I knew when I got to that point I was going to apply,” Mallery said. “I applied in January, and a week later I got accepted.”

Only 1,000 high school students attended the prestigious camp this summer.
Owen’s parents, David and Denise, knew of their son’s desire to attend West Point, a point of worry for Denise and for Dave, an Air Force vet, something to try to talk Owen out of.

“I’m trying to get him to do the Air Force Academy,” Dave joked.
“Plus knowing my wife always wanted to move to Colorado (the location of the academy), not that we’re going to move, it would be vacation spot.”

All joking aside, Dave and Denise said they are both very proud of their determined son.

Owen is hoping that participating in SLE will lead to his admission to West Point, something that has historical precedence.

“It does help to an extent. It more validates the fact that you’re their, that you’re a good candidate, that you’re there and you should keep trying, and keep working hard and keep improving physically and academically,” Owen said. “It gives you information on protocols and things. About 50 percent of the people who go to the SLE go on to be a cadet.”

Owen said going into the week he had some reservations and questions on attending the academy, and all of those were answered during his week-long camp.

“I had been a little worried that you were a robot out there,” Owen said. “But the third- and fourth-year cadets served as sergeants and LTs at the SLE, and you got to know them and you got to see they were still kids. They still joked around, they still played pranks on each other, they still did everything a normal kid would do. I mean they’re adults as well, and they can be really serious, but for the most part, they are like a college kid. I was able to get all my questions answered and all my worries went away.”

His parents agreed, to a point, and just hope he will take the time to evaluate all his opportunities, including local colleges.

“The thing we liked about him going for that week was that it’s a huge commitment going to West Point, and to do that without ever having been there and experienced it, it’s just like, how do you make that decision as a seventeen-year-old kid? For us it was like thank God he got in,” Denis said. “We figured he would come home and say ‘yeah I can se myself doing this or no way this isn’t for me.’”

At the camp, Owen said he was able to experience the physical training, classes, weapons training and military discipline.

While Owen has high hopes for West Point, and after attending SLE, he has a better chance than some, his long-held hopes almost faded last year, after a car accident in August of 2015 caused a back injury that required many months of physical therapy, and sitting out of all sports, one of the requirements for West Point.
“I had to get medically cleared,” Owen said. “The accident definitely held me back. I think that it will hold me back, but as long as I work really hard on working out, getting fit, strengthening my back muscles, my chest, my core, I’ll be able to perform at a high enough level. That’s my hope.”

If things don’t go as planned, Owen will also apply to the Air Force Academy, Bradley, Benedictine or Northwestern.

Source: News Tribune


Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Long Time Coming

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
Two years ago, Putnam County Library clerk Matt Miller set out on a journey to record the history, from beginning until current day, of Putnam County.

After all, such a feat hadn’t been done since 1880.

That labor of love turned in to seven hours of interviews and stories on a collection of four DVDs titled “Short History of Putnam County.”

 “It was necessary, it seemed like,” Miller said.

Miller spoke with about 70 people for the documentary, including village mayors, school officials, and community leaders, as well as people involved in the various businesses in Putnam County.

Miller said most ­people he spoke with were from multigenerational Putnam County families.

 “About half of them I kind of knew, the mayors and the school people, but a lot of them I really didn’t know who to interview,” Miller said, continuing on to name some of the more interesting interviews. “I don’t want to be too biased, (but) Coach (John) Slingsby, Mike O’Connor. Some of the mayors were interesting. It was interesting to talk to the Quakers because I didn’t know much about it.”

The documentary discusses each of the towns and townships in the county, the schools, notable buildings and businesses, Abraham Lincoln, the local Native Americans, the Quakers, and some of the natural landmarks and areas in the county, along with many other items of interest from the history of Putnam County.

Miller did paper research at the local libraries, historical society, and the courthouse, which equaled hundreds hours of footage.

Miller said his paper research was a bi-weekly adventure in the beginning.

Along the way, the lifelong Putnam County native found out interesting information about the county he hadn’t known before.

 “I didn’t realize there was a serpentine mound in Senachwine Township, didn’t realize the history of the (Putnam County) flag –— it’s actually relatively new -— back in ‘89. I didn’t really know much about the Quakers either or their connection with the Underground Railroad,” Miller said.

Miller also found the Putnam County sports history, as well as the history of the Mark Homecoming held more of an interest for him than what he originally thought they would, along with another, seedier bit of history from Mark and Standard.

 “I didn’t realize in Mark and Standard, homes during the Prohibition Era had a lot of alcohol going around,” Miller said. “I used to live there for a year in Mark, the basement was like that (set up to make alcohol).”

Miller said with each interview he asked the person to describe Putnam County in a sentence, or in “Twitter statement”, something he was able to finally answer for himself.

 “(Putnam County is) Very broad and diverse, and unexpectedly, it blends both the past and today very smoothly,” Miller said.

Source: News Tribune


Monday, June 20, 2016

4th of July Celebration 2016

"Thunder on the Illinois", Hennepin’s 40th July 4th Celebration, will include many events during the day, culminating with a spectacular fireworks display over the Illinois River at 9:30 p.m.

View the 4th of July Poster here.
The day will begin at 8:00 a.m. with “Movin’ for Music,” a 5K run/walk sponsored by the PC Music Boosters, followed by a pancake & sausage breakfast from 8:00-11:00 a.m. at the Hennepin Pool.

The 13th Annual Cruise-In will be noon-4:00 p.m. at Ernest Bassi Park, followed by a pork chop dinner.

Water fights with the Hennepin Fire and Rescue Department will be at 12 p.m. along with inflatables at Walter Durley Boyle Park from 2:00-8:00 p.m. and skee ball from 1:00-9:00 p.m.

The bags tournament will begin with registration at 11:30 a.m.

The PC Community Center will sponsor BINGO in the park shelter from 2:00-4:00 p.m.

Several food vendors and beer gardens will be setup in the park starting at noon, including the PC FFA Alumni (scholarship fund) serving pork chop dinners.

On the Courthouse stage, the National Anthem will be sung by the PCHS chorus at 5:00 p.m., followed by a welcome from Mayor Coleman, presentation of the Citizen of the Year Award, and performance by the Panteras and Little Panteras. Don't miss the golf cart parade at 6:15 p.m.

Musical entertainment this year will be provided by the band "Three Day Weekend" from 7:00-9:00 p.m., and again after the fireworks from 10:00 p.m. - 12:00 a.m.

Bring the family and enjoy the 4th of JULY in Hennepin!


4th of July 13th Annual Cruise-In

Preparations are underway for the 13th Annual Cruise-In to be held during Hennepin's 4th of July Celebration. Please view the PDF below for more information, and share with your family and friends. See you on the 4th!

2016 Cruise-In Flyer

View complete 4th of July details here.