Illinois Business Journal Illinois Business Journal
. . . . .
Passengers on Chicago's Blue Line commuter train may be among those who find themselves facing higher fares and reduced schedules if Chicago's transit authority doesn't get the sales tax increase it's seeking.

Downstate legislators playing hardball on $25 billion capital bill

   Downstate legislators are using old-fashioned politics to try to force passage of the $25 billion capital development bill by the Illinois General Assembly. State Sen. Minority Leader Frank Watson, a Republican from Greenville, says the opportunity is there to force the hand of the Chicago area legislators if downstate legislators can just stick together.
   At issue is funding for the Regional Transportation Authority. The RTA oversees the operation of [continue]

Ethanol market economics dropping anchor on SW Illinois building boom

   The booming ethanol industry is slamming on the breaks across the country and here in Southwestern Illinois the story is no different, according to Mike Lundy, executive director of the Southwestern Illinois Development Authority.
   In the past 12 months, the industry has been hit with a combination of high prices for construction and corn and low prices for ethanol, Lundy says.
   SWIDA provided more than $45 million in bond financing for the Center

A rush to build ethanol refineries has dramatically impacted the market, fueling cost escalations in corn and construction while driving the price of ethanol down.
Ethanol plant currently being built in Sauget. Lundy says that he's probably talked to two dozen companies ranging from start-ups to industry leaders about building ethanol plants in Southwestern Illinois over the past two years. But with current market conditions, he says, only the biggest and best financed companies are likely to be able to go forward.
   Barry Frazier, president of Center Ethanol Co., agrees. His Sauget plant is well under way, having attained the bulk of its financing a year ago, and is expected to be [continue]

Bankers cope with high cost of funds, shrinking margins, steep competition

   Banks, particularly in fiercely competitive markets such as Edwardsville/Glen Carbon and Belleville, are finding that their margins are nowhere near the levels they enjoyed a decade ago, local banking execs say.
   The cost of funds - a bank's deposits, its savings accounts, checking accounts, money markets and certificates of deposit - has been increasing at a faster pace than has the rate on banks' earning assets such as their loans. The difference between the two is the margin, and it's been shrinking.
   "It's a challenging environment in which to compete," said Dennis Terry, president and chief executive officer of First Clover Leaf Bank in Edwardsville. "Our approach has been simply to operate more efficiently, to create and book more assets per employee in order to survive on a thinner margin. We're committed to not sacrificing any service levels," he added. "The question remains, though...How do you survive in a [continue]