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URBANA, IL, (SWI-News.com), October 10, 2011 - Governor Pat Quinn joined University of Illinois President Michael J. Hogan to break ground on the school's new Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Building.
The $95 million facility will enhance educational opportunities, support research breakthroughs in computing, communications, nanotechnology and biotechnology, and set a new standard for energy-efficient buildings. The Illinois Jobs Now! project will create approximately 620 construction jobs, building what is projected to be the most energy-efficient engineering structure in the nation.
"The University of Illinois is home to some of the best and brightest minds in our state and we want to make sure they have the most cutting-edge technology available to them," Governor Quinn said. "Updated and energy-efficient higher education resources are vital to the success of our state's innovation and economic development.'
The 232,000-square-foot building will include state-of-the-art classrooms, laboratories and equipment. The facility will consolidate programs now spread across the campus, creating an environment for cross-disciplinary innovation and expanding the University's potential for breakthrough discoveries. The advanced energy features are projected to make the facility the most energy-efficient engineering building in the nation.
The auditorium will have 400 seats, making it one of the largest gathering spots on campus. It will also enable ECE to hold gatherings for an entire class of students at one time. The combined structure is projected to reach zero net energy consumption on an annual basis, and would become the largest such structure in the United States.
"Great minds working together can plant seeds of innovation that may never take root when those same people work alone," President Hogan said. "The ECE department has a rich legacy of achievement - from transistors and medical imaging to LED lighting, communications and computing - and this new facility is an investment that will pave the way for new generations of breakthrough technology."
Design work on the facility is complete, and bids will be opened October 12. Construction is expected to start in November, with completion expected by August 2014. The ECE Building will be built to achieve LEED Platinum certification, the highest designation for a structure's energy efficiency and environmental impact. In addition, a solar energy component is planned from separate funds.
Two Ameren Merchant Generating Company Energy Centers to Cease Operations
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SWI-News.com), October 9, 2011 - Ameren Energy Resources Company, the holding company for the merchant generation business of Ameren Corporation, have announced the Meredosia and Hutsonville energy centers will cease operating by the end of 2011.
The shutdown of these centers will result in the elimination of 90 positions at the generating facilities in Meredosia and Hutsonville, Ill. Both energy centers are part of Ameren Energy Generating Company, a subsidiary of AER. The net generating capacity of Meredosia Energy Center is 369 megawatts - including one 203-megawatt, coal-fired unit and one 166-megawatt, oil-fired unit (Unit 4). The Hutsonville Energy Center has two coal-fired units with a net generating capacity of 151 megawatts.
The closure of these facilities is expected to result in a charge to third quarter 2011 earnings. Ameren Energy Generating Company's net investment in the Hutsonville and Meredosia energy centers totaled $26 million and $1 million, respectively, as of June 30, 2011. In addition, the company expects to incur other costs related to employee severance and the closure of these centers that are still being determined.
The two facilities provided approximately 4 percent of Ameren Energy Resources' total generation over the last two years and a lesser percentage of margin.
"We are working to provide alternative employment opportunities and reassignments within AER for many of the 22 management and 68 union-represented employees affected by these decisions," said AER President and Chief Executive Officer Steven R. Sullivan. "It is my sincere hope that any employee desiring a reassignment opportunity can be accommodated. We will work hard to achieve this objective."
Classrooms First Commission Wants Public Input on Savings, Learning
SPRINGFIELD, IL, (SWI-News.com), October 9, 2011 - Lt. Governor Sheila Simon has launched an online survey that will give parents, educators and taxpayers the opportunity to provide suggestions on making school districts more efficient.
The survey will help Simon's Classrooms First Commission find ways to improve student learning opportunities and streamline administrative costs in school districts across the state. In addition to the survey, the commission will host public hearings across the state that will allow citizens to bring their ideas directly to commission members. The first public hearing is set for 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13 at John A. Logan College in Carterville.
"Schools are important to community identity, so we are making every effort to include input from local parents, educators and taxpayers on how to find real savings and make better investments for students," Simon said. "Together, we will find ways to put students and classrooms first."
The survey will allow citizens to submit ideas focused on improving efficiency within a district and across school districts, as well as through realignment of districts. Survey results will be provided to the members of the commission for use in their deliberations.
The survey can be found at ltgov.illinois.gov. Ideas or suggestions can be entered one at a time, with no limit to how many surveys may be completed.
$78 Million Initiative to Support Small and Start-Up Businesses
CHICAGO, IL, (SWI-News.com), October 6, 2011 - Governor Pat Quinn has launched the Advantage Illinois program that is designed to provide Illinois businesses and entrepreneurs with access to the capital they need to start new companies and expand existing business. Advantage Illinois will leverage $78 million in federal funding that will allow businesses to bring innovative ideas and new products to market and accelerate job creation and economic growth in Illinois.
"Advantage Illinois will help Illinois businesses of all sizes increase innovation and competition, and expand and create good-paying jobs," Governor Quinn said. "In order to boost our economy, create jobs and compete in the global marketplace, we must provide businesses and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to grow."
The Advantage Illinois program is comprised of three program components to spur institutional lending, and one program to leverage private venture capital in start-ups and high-growth businesses:
Capital Access Program (CAP) assists businesses with various financing needs. It is designed to encourage financial institutions to make loans to small and new businesses that do not qualify under conventional lending policies.
Participation Loan Program (PLP) supports businesses with projects that create or retain jobs and/or modernize their businesses to improve competitiveness. One component of the program is devoted to Minority/Women/Disabled/Veteran-Owned businesses (MWDV PLP). The state purchases and subordinates part of the loan to help mitigate lender risk.
Collateral Support Program (CSP) establishes savings accounts or CDs that provide cash collateral support to lending institutions to enhance the equity and/or loan collateral levels of small business borrowers.
Invest Illinois Venture Fund Program (IIVF) is a new venture capital program to support young, innovative companies in Illinois that show high growth potential, can demonstrate their place in the market and already have other investors.
Starting today, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) will be actively enrolling lending institutions that will, in turn, provide financing to businesses utilizing the CAP, PLP and CSP components of the program. Businesses will be able to begin accessing loans to use these funds when they have completed the appropriate paperwork with a participating lending institution. Program guidelines, including lender applications, and a regularly updated list of participating banks will be available at www.ildceo.net/AdvantageIllinois.
Ash Tree Killing Beetle Found In Southern Illinois
SPRINGFIELD, IL, (SWI-News.com), September 18, 2011 - A destructive pest that feasts on ash trees has been confirmed in two new Illinois counties. The emerald ash borer (EAB) recently was discovered just north of Salem in Marion County and at the Green Creek Rest Area on Interstate 57 in Effingham County. The beetle now has been confirmed in 20 counties in Illinois, with the latest detections being the first time the insect has been located in southern Illinois.
The emerald ash borer is a small, metallic-green beetle native to Asia. Its larvae burrow into the bark of ash trees, causing the trees to starve and eventually die. While the beetle does not pose any direct risk to public health, it does threaten the ash tree canopy. Since the emerald ash borer was first confirmed in the Midwest in the summer of 2002, more than 25 million ash trees have been felled by the beetle.
Currently, there are 25 counties in the northeastern and central part of the state included in an EAB quarantine issued by the Illinois Department of Agriculture to prevent the "man-made" spread of the beetle; however, Marion and Effingham counties are not within those quarantine boundaries.
"With these latest finds, the quarantine boundaries will need to be adjusted. However, changes will not be made until all the purple traps that were placed throughout the state to monitor the movement of the beetle have been harvested and analyzed," said Warren Goetsch, IDOA bureau chief of Environmental Programs. "EAB is a sneaky traveler, which is why it is important that everyone, even those counties not currently inside the quarantine zone, put the quarantine guidelines into practice by keeping all firewood and untreated wood products from movement outside of its county of origin."
The emerald ash borer is difficult to detect, especially in newly-infested trees. Citizens should watch for metallic-green beetles about half the diameter of a penny on or near ash trees that are showing signs of disease or stress. Other signs of infestation in ash trees include D-shaped holes in the bark of the trunk or branches and shoots growing from its base.
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