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Southwest Illinois News is a weekly news publication spotlighting attractions, events, entertainment, tourism, jobs and business developments in Southwestern Illinois
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Executive Order for Minority and Veteran Economic Opportunities
CHICAGO, IL, (, January 22, 2015 - Governor Bruce Rauner has signed Executive Order 15-12 designed to help bring more economic opportunities to minorities and veterans.

"Illinois is an incredibly diverse state, and we benefit from that diversity," Gov. Rauner said. "But the unemployment rate for minorities and veterans is way too high. This Executive Order will help reveal some of the causes and identify ways to solve this injustice."

Executive Order 15-12 orders state agencies to require every labor organization, contractor or subcontractor that is party to a state contract to obtain and report within thirty days the total number of minority and veteran participants in any offered training program as well as the minority and veteran participation rate in said programs.

CMS is also ordered to conduct a thorough review of all goals, preferences and considerations provided under state law and regulations concerning the hiring and training of veterans and the awarding of contracts to veteran-owned businesses. CMS is also to study the participation of minority-owned and veteran-owned businesses' ability to obtain opportunities in the State of Illinois. The goal of the study is to identify any disparity in awards and make recommendations to fix those differences.

"We need to ensure jobs and business opportunities are open to everyone, but especially those who serve our country or are underrepresented in the economy," Gov. Rauner added. "I will be a governor who champions our veterans and historically-disadvantaged communities. This Executive Order will help give my administration the tools to do exactly that."

First St. Louis Area Fresh Thyme Farmers Market to Open
FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS, IL, (, January 11, 2015 - Fresh Thyme Farmers Market's first St. Louis-area store will be celebrating its grand opening in Fairview Heights at 6569 North Illinois Street on Wednesday, January 14. Doors open at 7 a.m.

Fresh Thyme grand openings are popular for their family activities, live entertainment and food sampling. In addition, the first 250 shoppers through the doors at 7 a.m. will receive a free reusable shopping bag filled with $50 of healthy and organic groceries.

Fairview Heights Mayor Gail Mitchell, along with the Metro-East Regional Chamber of Commerce, will be on hand at 6:45 a.m. for the official ribbon cutting ceremony and community partners check presentation. As part of their commitment to the communities they serve, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market will donate $2,500 to both the Illinois Center for Autism and the Fairview Heights Food Pantry.

In a release, CEO Chris Sherrell, said, "Fresh Thyme is committed to improving the way our communities eat. Providing healthy and organic offerings at a great value and featuring an abundant produce section helps make healthy decisions easier."

Fresh Thyme Farmers Market will offer an extensive produce department with organic and local fruits and vegetables, a natural meat department, healthy deli foods to go, bakery goods, 400 bulk food bins, dairy and frozen, and health supplement products. Fresh Thyme is scheduled to open 60 stores by 2019.

Enforcement of Illinois Food-handler Certification Begins January 2015
SPRINGFIELD, IL, (, January 1, 2015 - Restaurants in Illinois that violate a new state law requiring all employees who work with food to receive accredited food-handler training will be subject to fines beginning January 1.

Illinois is the second state, after California, to mandate that food handlers complete a program accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-ASTM International, such as the National Restaurant Association's ServSafe program. The Illinois law took effect July 1, but the issuing of any fines for violations was put off for six months. The California law took effect in 2012.

The Illinois law will be policed by local health inspectors during regular safety inspections of restaurants, said Mary Wilkie, director of education for the Illinois Restaurant Association. While the primary focus of inspectors will remain on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's top five factors for outbreaks - improper hot/cold holding temperatures, improper cooking, dirty/contaminated utensils or equipment, poor employee health and hygiene, and food from unsafe sources - restaurants will be required to produce proof that their employees have completed the required food handler training.

"They'll have to show the inspector a roster with certificate numbers or actual certificates," Wilkie said.

In Chicago, the first violation will be considered a "minor" offense and will result in a warning and instructions for personnel to complete the required training. If a second inspection finds that the necessary training hasn't been conducted, the violation will be classified as "serious" and a $250 fine will be imposed, Wilkie said. It will continue to be considered a "serious" offense if the restaurant remains out of compliance.

A violation may be treated differently depending on where in the state it occurs, as restaurant inspections aren't standardized and each municipality may have different systems for considering violations, Wilkie said.

The Illinois law requires that all employees who handle food receive training in basic safe food-handling principles within 30 days of beginning employment.

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