White Oaks Mall is a very important location in Springfield. While consumers may see it as a hub for shopping and recreation, the mall is also critical for the city’s finances. The mall is one of the largest tax generators in the whole region, both in terms of property and sales taxes. Since Springfield is heavily reliant on local sales tax, city leaders like to keep a close eye on the mall’s health.
So when two of the anchors in the mall announced they were closing, there was reason to be concerned. Both the Bergner’s and Sears will be closing this year. Sears had been in financial trouble for some time, but the loss Bergener’s was unexpected. City revenues were already stagnate; losing the mall could be devastating to an already precarious budget.
But these fears were somewhat allayed at last night’s Committee of the Whole meeting. Mall manger Clay Emerich spoke the council about the state of the mall. Not only did Mr. Emerich state that the mall was not planning to close, he pointed to the opportunities these closing present. Most of the mall is owned by Simon Property Group, but they did not own the two anchor locations. Simon potentially having access to far more space in the mall presents a number of options which are still being explored.
Emerich explained some of these future possibilities. Adding more entertainment options to balance out apparel was one. Other stores are already moving into the mall area, including a Pasta House that will replace the old Denny’s. He also stressed that malls across the region have taken hits of late. Their loss might be Springfield’s gain, if Simon can execute some of the strategies they are working on.
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America’s newspapers are vanishing, with Illinois losing more than most
When a newspaper closes or stops providing local content, it’s bad news for the local community, according to an updated report.
Since 2004, hundreds of local newspapers have closed up shop. The author of a report on this trend said areas without a local paper suffer in a variety of ways.
A study by the Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Media at the University of North Carolina says newspapers have shuttered at a high rate since 2004, many of which happened shortly after the recession in 2008.
“In total, the United States has lost almost 1,800 papers since 2004, including more than 60 dailies and 1,700 weeklies,” the report found. “Roughly half of the remaining 7,112 papers in the country – 1,283 dailies and 5,829 weeklies – are located in small and rural communities. The vast majority – around 5,500 – have circulations under 15,000.”
Illinois lost 157 weekly papers since 2004, most located in suburban Chicago as many merged with larger daily publications like the Chicago Tribune. This is among the highest number of closings in the country.
“Illinois has lost a tremendous number of newspapers,” said professor Penelope Muse-Abernathy, Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics at the University of North Carolina and author of the study. “Newspapers have been the prime, if not sole, source of grassroots coverage of events that affect the quality of life for people in a community.”
The study was updated recently from an initial publication in 2016.
Behind a lack of revenue to support the local publications are decades of declining readership. According to the Pew Research Center, U.S. daily newspaper readership fell by 11 percent in 2017.
Muse-Abernathy said local newspapers have three main benefits to the area they serve: Coverage and oversight of local government; encouragement of regional economic growth and development; and social cohesion.
Often, smaller newspapers will merge with a larger one nearby and then reduce coverage of the area to cut costs, something the report dubs “ghost papers.” Ghost papers offer little to no local content.
“What you have is a paper that was a standalone newspaper in 2004 that has been gradually merged with a parent, usually a large metro daily,” she said. “They first become zoned editions and then tend to morph into an online-only presence with greatly-diminished resources.”
Studies have shown cities without local investigative journalists are more likely to raise taxes and become more inefficient.
The “news deserts” can be found in urban, rural and suburban areas across the nation, but most have one common trait: Poverty.
The report found that locations that had no local newspaper presence had a poverty rate of 18 percent, higher than the 13 percent average nationwide. Residents were also typically older and less educated.
The reason, according to Stanford University economist James Hamilton, is that residents of low-income areas tend to be overlooked by advertisers because they’re less likely to buy subscriptions and have less access to digital media offerings.
Article by Cole Lauterbach with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org
Illinois Secretary of State warns about marijuana investment scams
Pot is a growing business in Illinois and other states.
And that means marijuana investment scams are becoming a growing problem.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White issued a warning about investment scams last week. Canada became the second country to legalize recreational marijuana use. Sales there started last week. In the U.S., nine states and Washington D.C. allow for recreational use of marijuana while many other states allow for medical use. The drug remains illegal under federal law.
“Whenever something is in the news, people who are on the wrong side of the ledger, want to line their pockets,” White said. “They come up with the various schemes to take your hard earned money. And we want to do all that we can to keep these people out of your pocket, so to speak.”
White said people need to do their research before investing in anything, especially the new marketplace of marijuana.
“The company must be registered with the state of Illinois,” White said. “If you have any questions about it, you can go to the website AvoidTheScam.net.”
White said the North American Securities Administrators Association has information on scammers and other flagged-businesses.
If you have been scammed, White said the securities department inside the Secretary of State’s office needs to know.
Article by Benjamin Yount, Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org
Illinois manufacturers, farmers eager for new trilateral trade deal
Illinois’ manufacturing and farming communities are excited about the new trilateral trade agreement President Donald Trump announced between the U.S, Mexico and Canada. But the state’s leading manufacturers’ group says Illinois must address its poor business climate and farmers say the U.S. must continue making deals with other countries in the face of a trade war with China.
After months of trade uncertainty, Trump said Canada is now on board with Mexico to forge a new trade deal with the United States. He decried the North American Free Trade Agreement signed by the U.S. in the 1990s as a horrible deal and campaigned to get rid of it. On Monday, he said he’s fulfilled that promise.
Called the United States, Mexico, Canada Agreement (USMCA), Trump said it will make North America a manufacturing powerhouse.
“That means more auto parts and more automobiles will be manufactured in the United States,” Trump said. “We will be manufacturing many more cars.”
Illinois Manufacturers’ Association’s Mark Denzler said that’s great news for the state’s automotive manufacturers that employ thousands of workers. It’s also good news for chemical, pharmaceutical and food manufacturers, he said.
But Denzler warned Illinois could miss the boat if it doesn’t address the state’s negative attributes.
“Workers’ compensation, higher taxes, we’re looking at a graduated income tax for example, higher minimum wage, all of these things add up and make it more difficult to do business in the state of Illinois,” Denzler said.
Illinois has the highest workers’ compensation costs in the Midwest, and seventh highest in the nation. The state’s property taxes are also among the highest in the country.
For farmers, Trump said the USMCA opens up the North American marketplace to make things more fair and reciprocal.
“The deal includes a substantial increase in our farmer’s opportunities to explore American wheat, poultry, eggs and diary, including milk, butter, cheese, yogurt and ice cream,” Trump said.
Trump had long blasted Canada for having a nearly 300 percent tariff on U.S. dairy products.
While Illinois dairy products may take a backseat to dairy products from states bordering Canada, Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert said the trade deal is still great news. He said trade negotiations must now continue elsewhere.
“Let’s work on the other countries as well, the [European Union], Japan and build those markets knowing that China is going to be a little ways down the road,” Guebert said.
In an effort to curb what he called unfair trade practices and intellectual property theft, Trump has imposed tariffs on all kinds of Chinese products. China has responded in kind with no end in sight.
The USMCA trade pact must still be ratified by all three countries before it replaces the NAFTA agreement.
Article by Greg Bishop, Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org
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