Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Garbage Pick-up One Day Late

Attention Hennepin Residents:

This week, Illinois Valley Waste Services has informed us that garbage pick-up will be one day late. Rather than Friday, pick-up will be on Saturday, January 21.

Thank you.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Marquis Energy Employees, Company Donate Big to Bureau County United Way Campaign

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
The Bureau County United Way got a late Christmas present from Marquis Energy in Hennepin. 

The employees, in combination with a matching company donation, presented a check to the non-profit for $29,000. 

A press release by the company explained the donation, stating that at the end of each year, Marquis and its employees give to a deserving charity that will use the funds to better the community.

“Marquis employees generously gave to this great cause, to make a lasting impact on the lives of those in our local community,” said Mark Marquis, CEO. “We are proud to invest in the future of our community and know Bureau County United Way is a group helping lead the charge.”

The BCUW’s goal this year is $102,000. With Marquis’ contribution, the organization is now at 60 percent, or approximately $61,000 for the year.

Last year, the organization was only able to raise $86,000, an amount the new executive director, Kim Scott, is hoping to blow out of the water.

“I’m looking to hit goal,”  Scott said. “The contribution from Marquis and its employees was extremely generous and will have a huge impact on our community and the agencies we serve.”

Scott will next host a beer and wine tasting in mid-February at the Barn at Hornbaker Gardens and will return to the annual BCUW golf outing in late June.

Source: News Tribune


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Mennie Machine Co. Well Prepared for Future With Newest Division

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
Mennie Machine Co. is easily recognized by the style of its’ facility located along Route 71 in Mark. Inspired by ancient Greeks and Romans, it looks very different from the typical manufacturing company. But while the outside celebrates the founder’s love of history, the inside has been taken into the future by his family.

H.J. Mennie, previously a tool and die maker at Westclox in Peru, began his business in his garage in 1970. According to his son, David Mennie, vice president of sales and marketing, one of his first and largest accounts was with Mid-American Growers, now Color Point, in Granville. H.J. helped the founder with machining the pieces of the highly automated and revolutionary greenhouse systems.

“He did not like to knock on doors; he believed if you had a good rapport with customers and they appreciated the work you did, the business can go forward that way,” David said of his father.

By the early 1970s, Mennie Machine Co. began to get government contracts.

“He was making track adjusters for tanks, steering arms for airplanes, postal contracts, all kinds of small stuff. We started going to large manufacturers but couldn’t get into the big names because we were still small, so we began to help companies with smaller fabrication demands which included making hydraulic pieces for agricultural and heavy equipment.” David said.

In the late 1970s, Mennie Machine employed about 30-35 people. Today they employ roughly 235 in their 250,000-square-foot, highly-automated facility.

H.J.’s sons joined the family business in the early ‘80s when, according to David, there were approximately $3 million in sales a year.

“By the early to mid-’90s, we were going to the companies that made raw castings for big companies like Ford and GM. They were simple parts but high volume. My brothers and I kept growing the business that way, and by 2004, we were at about $30 million in sales a year.”

He described how the company has adapted over the years, saying, “We changed our portfolio about 12 years ago. Companies are looking all over the world and moving anywhere. The market is totally different now; simple components don’t stay in the states. So we’ve had to move into more complex components that have a high tolerance and a high quality. Otherwise, the work isn’t here. The tariffs on imports, if any, are so small you can’t be competitive. All of our business is in critical components. There are no simple components left; they’re all done overseas where labor is cheap.”

He credited the success of the transition to the dedication of their employees and said that success t was because of their attention to detail, ability to change, and their willingness to learn how to work with computerized equipment, robotics and the complexity of the machine components.

“They’ve done an excellent job keeping up with training in operating the equipment as well as learning the critical characteristics our customers demand. A lot of companies just want a button pusher, and we’ve never been structured that way,” he said.

Mennie Machine Co. now makes critical parts for Ford, GM, Nissan, Cummins, Allison, Caterpillar, Polaris, Kawasaki and more. They’ve also launched a successful new division, MMC Armory, which makes a line of semi-automatic rifles.

The latest division which will soon be launched is ProHold. The ProHold division will design and build a range of work-holding fixtures for use on machine tools, as well as hydraulic power supplies and any necessary auxiliary equipment needed to integrate them into complete systems.

“These are products we’ll be building for the manufacturing industry,” David said. “It gives us a product line to offer the industry, a standard product that’s a catalog item. We’ll be launching through distributors in North America in the first quarter of 2017. It’s a product line the company has always wanted to go into.”

He also described how the Illinois Valley has changed. He said the area has grown a lot with both existing manufacturers and new ones, which is good for the area, but that growth has made it more difficult to find good employees with a background in manufacturing.

Mennie also commented on what he thinks the state of Illinois could do to help the business environment.

“We need the state to be a better work-friendly state. The enterprise zone was a huge advantage for tax breaks and sales tax savings when building or expanding your plant, but what the state does not offer is tax breaks when we put in a manufacturing line, as we’ve done in the past two years at a cost of more than $3,000,000. They need to give companies a tax break for capitalizing and adding jobs. You may not be expanding square footage of a plant, but there are always equipment expenses for product lines,” David said.

Along with the MMC Armory and ProHold, Mennie Machine would like to begin expanding their manufacturing capabilities to move from single components into full assemblies.

“Rather than just making components, I want to start building complete modules for our customers, a complete assembly,” David said. “You can’t just be a job shop punching holes anymore.”

Source: Putnam County Record


Monday, January 2, 2017

War Stories Published

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
While his friends went off to training before making their way to the conflict in Korea, Darrell Alleman took the train back to Ottawa alone.

Alleman, who was drafted three times, was kept out of the war by ailments including a heart murmur left over from a bout of rheumatic fever and diabetes, but he reported to Chicago each time and had many Illinois Valley peers who did serve.

“Everyone’s cards was yellow, and mine was blue with an F on it,” he recalled. “I always felt bad about it. I lived in Tonica, and each time I’d go with four or five guys my age to the city, and they’d take them into training, and I’d come back alone. I think that’s why I want to tell stories of those great people.”

Alleman, a freelance writer from Granville, channeled that desire into a book, “Uncommon Valor Was a Common Virtue,” containing 317 stories from veterans — mostly from the Illinois Valley.

“Grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be able to read about their relatives,” he said. “Otherwise these stories might be lost.”

A book more than a decade in the making

Alleman started writing veterans’ stories in 2005, when he decided to write about Jerry Masini for a Veterans Day article after hearing Masini speak at a Rotary Club luncheon.

Masini, who lives in Mark, entered the U.S. Army as a military police officer after being drafted in 1961, but quickly transitioned into broadcasting, which had been his desired post since being drafted.

“If there wasn’t an armed forces radio over there, I was going to make sure it happened,” he said.

There was already an armed forces radio, but after being transferred from a 12-man tent to a hotel room in downtown Saigon, Masini was present for some of the radio station’s earliest days.

“They had gone on the air in August, and I got there in September,” he said. “I was transferred there as an engineer, but they were so short on people, I said I could help with some of the DJ work. They put me on the air, and it worked out pretty well.”

Masini had already accrued five years of experience working for the TV 35 Station in Tonica rather than armed forces radio training, and he said it positively affected his work.

“I did it stateside commercial radio style,” he recalled.

Masini said he’s thrilled and humbled to be included in the book.

“I’m just one story on page 100-something,” he said. “Darrell’s done a fabulous job, and I hope people enjoy his book.”

After Alleman wrote about Masini, suggestions began to trickle in prodding Alleman to talk to and write about other veterans.

“After I did that, they would say, ‘You should talk to so and so,’ and before long that’s about all I was doing,” Alleman said.

Hundreds of vets and hundreds of stories

He wound up talking to all sorts of veterans.

Most were local men, but Alleman also talked to hall of fame pitcher Bob Feller and included his story in the book.

He said the abundance of nearby veterans was unsurprising.

“I read once that country boys from small towns made up a lot of the armed forces,” Alleman said.

There are stories in the book of service from local veterans such as his second cousin, Wendell “Pike” Alleman of Oglesby, and Jack Brandstatter of Hennepin.

“Brandstatter won a Distinguished Flying Cross,” Alleman said. “He flew with General Doolittle. That was in Europe. He bombed Berlin. He made 32 or 33 trips, and when he got home, he wasn’t old enough to vote because you had to be 21 back then.”

Wendell Alleman kept company with a famous general too.

He followed Gen. George “Blood and Guts” Patton in Europe and was present for the ghastly discoveries at Nazi concentration camps.

Patton encouraged his soldiers to observe and document the atrocities, which included emaciated people and a lampshade made out of human skin, Alleman said.

“General Patton said years from now, people will say this never happened,” Alleman said.

About 200 yellow writing pads were filled with veterans’ stories in preparation for the book.

“I didn’t do any filing either, so sometimes I’d need to look at my notes and wouldn’t be able to find it,” Alleman said.

Eventually, he was able to cobble everything together and wound up with 300 copies of a hardcover book with a patriotic cover.

“They tried to talk me into paperback, but it’s not about the money,” Alleman said. “It’s about the work and pride in my work.”

Source: News Tribune


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

4th of July Raffle Tickets

Attention: 4th of July 50/50 raffle tickets are now available for stocking stuffers!

You may purchase them at the Hennepin Pool, Hennepin Food Mart, Village Hall, or from any 4th of July committee member.

Thank you!


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Hennepin Park District Announces Holiday Activities

The Hennepin Park District will sponsor holiday activities over the holiday break.

On Thursday, Dec. 22, they will have Gerrie’s Craft Corner from noon to 1 p.m. Participants will make holiday crafts during this time.

On Friday, Dec. 23, it will be free swim for Hennepin and Hennepin Township residents. Open swim will be from 1 to 5 p.m.

On Tuesday, Dec. 27, there will be a movie and popcorn day. They will show “The Wild Life” on the big screen TV. Popcorn and a beverage will be served during the movie. The movie will start at 11:30 a.m. and should conclude at approximately 1 p.m.

On Thursday, Dec. 29, there will be another movie and popcorn day. They will show “The Secret Life of Pets.” Popcorn and a beverage will be served during the movie. The movie will start at 11:30 a.m. and should conclude at approximately 1 p.m.

On Friday, Dec. 30, it will be free swim for Hennepin and Hennepin Township residents. Open swim will be from 1 to 5 p.m.

On Monday, Jan. 2, they will have kid’s bingo from noon to 1 p.m. Kids will play bingo for exciting prizes.

On Tuesday, Jan. 3, there will be a movie and popcorn day. They will show “Storks.” Popcorn and a beverage will be served during the movie. The movie will start at 11:30 a.m. and should conclude at approximately 1 p.m.

All activities are free to Hennepin and Hennepin Township residents. The cost for all other areas will be $5. All participants in the activities are invited to stay after for open swim at no additional charge.

Open swim will be from 1 to 5 p.m. on each of these days. Children under the age of 12 may stay for three hours if not accompanied by an adult. Children under 45 inches must have an adult present with them in the pool area.

For more information, call the Hennepin Pool at 815-925-7319 or email hennepinparkdistrict@mchsi.com.

Source: Putnam County Record


Calbow Steps Aside to Break in New Chairman

There’s a new sheriff in town.

Well, a new board chairman anyway.

After 20-year Putnam County board member Duane Calbow declined the appointment to remain board chairman, Steve Malavolti accepted the honor, with the vice chairman position going to Luke Holly.

Malavolti and Holly are the newest members of the board.

After the meeting, Calbow said he declined the position he has held for 18 years to help prepare the board members for the future.

“I’m not probably going to be here forever, so it’s important the responsibility get shared,” Calbow said. “I’m still here, I’m still willing to help them (Malavolti and Holly) do whatever they have to do. I still love Putnam County. Nothing’s changed there ... I wouldn’t be doing them a favor if I kept going (as chair) and then all at once I wasn’t here at some point.”

Glitches after purchase

The board also took issue with problems reported by treasurer Kevin Kunkel with the new accounting software purchased in July. The software isn’t working as initially anticipated, along with other continuing issues.

“What I don’t understand is, we were supposed to have that setup done, and then mirrored all the way through the months (from July-December), so right away after July, maybe the first month, and the set-ups weren’t correct, they should have known right there and then, they weren’t correct,” Calbow said. “Then we have September, October, November, to get stuff straightened out so it doesn’t happen. So where are we? Is it CIS’s (the software company) fault that this is happening?”

Kunkel said the issues are being worked on and are close to being fixed, a statement that didn’t sit well with at least one board member.

“The promise was made that it was a transition that would be seamless and done before the end of the year,” Calbow said. “They knew exactly what they bid on in the first place ... I can understand little bits here and there, but this is kind of major. Do we have to have them (CIS) back here to discuss this?”

Source: News Tribune


Friday, December 9, 2016

More Than Rumors, Offers Made for Old J&L Property

Image courtesy of the Bureau County Republican
The old J&L Steel property in Hennepin soon may be under new ownership, the Illinois Valley Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development learned Thursday evening at IVAC’s 105th annual dinner.

There are two offers on the table, executive director Joni Hunt said, but nothing is a done deal.

“The ball is in the owner’s court,” she said. Details, including the parties making the offers, are being kept secret.

Hunt also stressed she was not announcing a completed deal, and the information was instead part of Hunt telling the chamber what she and her office have accomplished over the past year.

The plant first was established in 1967 as J&L Steel and later taken over by LTV Steel. LTV Corp. announced its intention to close in 2001, prompting many layoffs, but some jobs were salvaged when International Steel Group acquired the property a year later. At the time of the plant’s closing in 2009, then-owner Arcelor Mittal employed 245 people.

In late 2014, a Michigan company acquired the former LTV Steel property and indicated it may raze the property for commercial use other than for a steel mill.

Source: News Tribune