by: Munashe Kwangwari
PONTIAC, Ill. — More jobs will be coming to Pontiac thanks to a new development set to break ground next month.
The city is located just off route 66 and is hoping to become a respite for travelers.
A member of the Wally’s family proposed building a $16 million, 19 acre “car-stop”.
Wally’s is an enhanced travel center where route 66 travelers can not only fill up their car, but also, go inside and shop.
City leaders say on top of adding about 140 jobs this new facility will prevent them from raising real estate taxes.
“That’s one of our biggest hindrances for businesses here in Illinois is high taxes,” said Mayor Bob Russell of Pontiac. “This will have about 95-98% of people get off the highway to spend money in our city. We are generating revenues, not only for the city but all of our schools in Livingston county.”
Russell says construction is expected to begin sometime next month. Leaders are hoping the facility will be up and running by 2020.
The car stop is not available to semis.
By Erich Murphy
March 5, 2019
Director of Parks and Recreation Taylor Baxter told the Pontiac City Council his idea for program fee and pass changes, as well as his thoughts on furnishings for the new splash pad at its meeting Monday night at City Hall.
In regard to the rec center fees, Baxter proposed a five-point plan regarding fee structure. First, there is a 5 percent increase across the board. A resident family would pay $306 for a year as opposed to the current $291. District 90 residents go up to $351 from $334 and non-residents go to $382 from $364.
The second is participants having an option to participate in programs without purchase of a pass to the Rec Center. This would include outside programs being able to use a classroom and the Rec Center getting a fee from room rental or a percentage.
“Currently, you have to have a rec center pass in order to do a program with us,” Baxter told the council. “That has been a big deterrent for a lot of people coming in taking classes.
“We’ve had one class leave because participants didn’t want to do that. We have two big classes that would come back.”
He also wants to introduce a member vs. non-member rate. For a one-day-per-week class, the cost would be $24 for members ($4 per class) and $48 ($8 per class) for non-members. There is also a rate for the two-day-per-week classes.
The fourth item is that the cycle studio and fitness theater would be included in the Rec Center pass.
Finally, he added eliminating the drop-in fee for those who just spectating.
“I think (these) will really help our efforts moving forward,” Baxter said.
Baxter also discussed the splash pad furnishings. The anticipated grand opening of the new splash pad will be May 24, but in order to be ready, furnishings will be needed.
Baxter proposed purchasing eight benches and seven tables with umbrellas at a total cost of $18,814.60. He noted that this is well below the budgeted amount of approximately $29,000.
GLCEDC CEO Adam Dontz kicked off the regular agenda portion of the meeting with a report on his organization’s progress. He first introduces Pontiac Township High School District 90 Superintendent Jon Kilgore as the outgoing board chairman of four years, and Brad Solberg of OSF St. James-John W. Albrecht Medical Center as the new board chairman.
Dontz pointed out that there are 72 entities who are currently members of the GLDEDC, including 12 on the executive committee and 23 on the board of directors. He also pointed out that the revenues are split virtually down the middle between the public sector and the private sector, which is seen as a positive.
He added that of the top 20 employers in the county, 17 (85 percent) are involved in the GLCEDC. He said they collectively represent more than 4,500 jobs.
“I’m really pleased that those stakeholders, those employers, have been actively involved,” Dontz said. “I think we have pretty good representation throughout the community.”
He also discussed enterprise zones and a possible connection to one with Streator.
Mayor Bob Russell pointed out how economic development for Pontiac has changed in 25 years. He said that back then, the idea was to bring in new businesses with new jobs.
Now, it seems better to cultivate what is here and get job growth through the established businesses. ATR was used as an example by Russell and Dontz as a growing member. ATR has seen its employment more than double from 41 to 90 employees.
In other business, the fountain for Chautauqua Park was discussed in regard to raising funds and when a logical start for it could be. It was pointed out that some hurdles have been crossed and that now it appears to be up to the city to discuss it.
Russell pointed out that a meeting will need to take place to hammer out final details and that progress will be forthcoming sooner than later.
One of the greatest rewards in economic development is to see collaboration which delivers meaningful results.
Over the last two years, the GLCEDC has worked with area schools to provide funding for the implementation of Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math [STEM] initiatives. With an investment of nearly $225,000, the GLCEDC through local school districts has helped to enhance the education of over 4,000 students throughout Livingston County. Also, the STEM program has resulted in additional opportunities for employers to share thoughts on curriculum, make classroom presentations, and offer STEM related internships.
I invite you to watch this short video highlighting Livingston County Schools and Local employers.
Stay tuned for more…in early 2019, the GLCEDC will be making additional videos focusing on: local Sites for Development, Healthcare, and Quality of Life.
Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council
210 West Water Street
Pontiac, Illinois 61764
By Luke Smucker
Posted Jan 18, 2019 at 9:09 AM
There will be a STEAM teacher in each building of District 429 next year.
At Thursday’s meeting of the Pontiac District 429 Board of Education, the board approved job postings for STEAM teachers at Central, Lincoln and Washington Schools. The board also approved the diesel fuel bid from Ken’s Oil in Forrest for the upcoming 2019-20 school year, similar to District 90.
During the Superintendent’s report, Brian Dukes discussed where the STEAM program is headed for 2020. A couple of years ago, when the district started its STEAM program, the goal was to get to the point where there was a STEAM department for students, which was unique to District 429.
“Our program is not only unique here in the county, but across the state,” Dukes said. “When I talk to a lot of school districts about what programs they have, the things that we are able to offer our kids and how that continues to grow is something really special.”
Dukes credited Adam Dontz and the GLCEDC with helping District 429 with the finances to initially get the program going. It wasn’t long before Dukes and the district found out that people want to give money to support the STEAM project.
“We received funding from local businesses and some of our groups here in town,” Dukes said. “If you would have asked me when we started the plan, I figured we would basically have a cart that went from building to building. Today, we have a STEAM lab in every single school.”
Dukes said one benefit that the district has had with its STEAM program, is that they haven’t had to go out and ask for additional funding. Instead, Dukes said they have used grant opportunities and things like that to continue to grow the program.
“Tonight, hopefully, we can get an approval to expand the program that we already have and allow our kids more opportunities every day for STEAM programming by having a specialized teacher in every building. A year from now, the plan is to re-evaluate the program,” Dukes said.
Before seeking approval for the three STEAM positions, Dukes gave the board a brief summary of his plans. With the recent approval from the District 429 Teacher’s Union, Dukes said his plan is to consolidate two positions and then use the remainder of the district’s new state dollars to cover the cost for the three STEAM teachers.
“This isn’t three brand-new positions, it is a consolidation. The principals are going to have to work hard on how the master schedules are going to look with having someone there every day. So, it will probably look different in every building, but at the end of the day it gives our kids that much more opportunity with STEAM and we can continue to grow our program.”
Pontiac Daily Leader
By Luke Smucker
Posted Dec 8, 2018 at 12:23 PM
As another chapter begins to close in the pages of history, the Caterpillar plant in Pontiac reflects on 40 years of business within the community.
Caterpillar Inc. acquired the Pontiac facility in January 1978 and it was operational by March of that year producing fuel system products. The acquisition was in response to increasing demand for engines and engine components, technological advancements and the need for a facility that was centrally located with other Caterpillar engine design and development facilities.
Today, about 1,300 people, a combination of Caterpillar employees and contract workers, work at the facility.
“Much has changed, both within the facility’s four walls and at Caterpillar itself in the last 40 years,” said facility manager Dave Viebrock. “We have brought new products in and moved products out — each of the moves working to improve the overall business and success of the facility.
“The most recent changes at Pontiac resulted from the consolidation of two other operations into this plant in 2016. This consolidation brought some fuel system components back to the facility and added large after-treatment components. It also allowed us to add new manufacturing employees to the team.”
The Internet boom of the late 1990s occurred within the first 20 years of the Pontiac facility’s existence. Since then, Viebrock said the facility’s ability to share ideas has increased dramatically. Technological advances have also improved the business’ efficiency and its understanding of customer needs.
“The introduction of various kinds of robots within our facility in the 1980s helped improve the precision, speed and efficiency of our manufacturing operations and those advances continue today,” he said. “Technology has greatly reduced the time it takes to design and commercialize engine systems. Engine systems and parts that were previously drawn by hand and took several months to complete are now done using software and simulation in a fraction of that time.”
As community employees continue to serve at the Pontiac facility, the company has made a point to serve its community, too. The annual plant-wide United Way campaign is a significant contributor to local Livingston County United Way programs. Likewise, the annual Scoring Fore Scholarships golf outing has raised more than $445,000 over the past 12 years for scholarships at Heartland Community College.
“Since 2000, the Caterpillar Foundation has invested over $500,000 in the local community through non-profits via grants aimed at both education and basic human needs,” Viebrock said. “Local organizations receiving this funding include the Boys and Girls Club, Futures Unlimited and Mid-Central Community Action.
“Also, many of our employees volunteer their time to support STEM education through FIRST Robotics and FIRST LEGO League, as well as 4-H and FFA. In addition, we partner with Bradley University to have their students work on senior projects to solve real manufacturing challenges that benefit both the student and facility.”
To show appreciation to its employees for the milestone, a 40th anniversary Family Day was held in early August. More than 2,500 people were treated to barbecue, games and activities for kids and an auto show featuring employees’ classic cars and boats.
“One employee even flew his helicopter to the event,” Viebrock said. “The celebration also gave people the chance to tour our plant, see our high-tech manufacturing equipment and get up close to various types of Caterpillar machinery that they may have only seen from a distance on construction sites. NASCAR fans also got to see the 31 CAT race car and meet Ward Burton, who delivered the 2002 Dayton 500 championship in the CAT car.”
Within the Pontiac facility today, employees build fuel systems and after-treatment systems for several different models of CAT, Perkins and MaK engines, which are manufactured at Caterpillar facilities in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
“Those engines serve worldwide owners of CAT machines in various industries, including power generation, oil, gas, rail, marine and industrial power systems. In fact, there are approximately 3 million Cat engines and machines at work around the globe today, many of which are using components built right here in Pontiac,” Viebrock said.
“Components made in Pontiac are also sent to Caterpillar parts depots in the U.S., Europe and Asia. They are used for repairing and rebuilding various engine models and giving them second and third lives at our global remanufacturing facilities. We are very proud of the role we play in Caterpillar’s global manufacturing network.”
While the products and processes have changed, Viebrock said the type of employees needed to run the business has not. Since the day it opened, Viebrock and his staff have looked to hire safety and quality-minded individuals who excel at solving problems and delivering results for its customers.
“Our goal is to keep listening to our customers, keep innovating and keep delivering products that meet and exceed their expectations,” he said. “This commitment to customers has driven our business for 40 years and will continue to do so.”
By Luke Smucker
Posted Aug 25, 2018 at 9:45 AM
A group of 40 to 50 freshmen at Prairie Central High School are taking part in the school’s new Freshman Cohort program this year. The core subjects of math, science, English and social studies are split between six teachers into two classrooms in an effort to offer students a STEAM-based teaching approach.
“In the past, those four classes would have taken up a freshman’s entire school year, but what we are finding, is that our freshmen were not getting into the electives, the actual programming that gets them excited about being in school and thinking about what they are going to do in the future,” Tonya Dieken, district director of curriculum for Prairie Central, said.
“So, a group of us met around the middle of last year to design a program that we thought could move forward successfully. It was great, several staff members jumped right in. So, we started with meetings once a week on Fridays to plan the program.”
Essentially, the group of freshmen have their core subjects split into two classrooms. In one room, the students will meet for 90 minutes with a math teacher, science teacher and a support teacher. The other classroom combines English with social studies and another support teacher.
“At the high school level, our teachers haven’t done as much co-teaching as other teachers have within the district,” Dieken said. “So it has been a learning curve for the staff involved. As they have developed the new program, they also received different professional development opportunities to help move the program forward.”
Because the math and English curriculums don’t offer much room for change, the social studies and science curriculums are being realigned for the purpose of finding commonalities.
“We basically looked at two classes where we thought the kids could use the most support, the entry-level math and English courses, put our team teachers in place and built on it from there,” Dieken said.
“It’s great because our teachers’ big focus is on relationships with the students and figuring out how to get those relationships to help the students be more successful. We have a very low drop-out rate here at Prairie Central and we are very blessed for that. But, one or two always slip through and we want to make sure that we are trying to catch them and help them maintain an interest in school while finishing what they started in their following years.”
In addition to encouraging the students, this group of teachers is also encouraging each other. Dieken said the teachers are getting together for 30 minutes each day to talk about what went on in class the day before and what their plans are for the future.
On Fridays, administrators get together with the teaching team to talk about how the project is going and what other support is needed.
“I used to be a high school teacher, so I know it can be isolating,” Dieken said. “You get in deep with your content and you don’t always have that time to collaborate with other teachers. So, I think it’s great that we are starting with just a small group of our incoming freshmen and a group of 13 teachers and administrators.
“Hopefully, we can continue to work together and create a really strong freshman learning program.”
Jeana Forsyth, the program’s science teacher, has been teaching at the school for 18 years. She says the biggest difference between her regular curriculum and what she is teaching through the Cohort program is the inclusion of math.
“We’re integrating more math into the science classes to give them more of a STEAM approach,” Forsyth said. “I completed some math training over the summer to help me prepare for this. We are trying to get the students engaged and also show them how math overlaps with science and vice versa. My goal is to help our students find a love for both subjects.”
Forsyth doesn’t mind teaching a class with other teachers, in fact, she said the program is helping her to learn new strategies to improve her teaching.
“We’re still getting into the swing of collaboration with the kids, but I think as the program continues the students are really going to see the value in what we’re doing,” Forsyth said. “I’m hoping that we could see this program be a part of every freshmen’s experience at Prairie Central for the next school year, if at all possible.”
U.S. Congressman Adam Kinzinger made a stop in Pontiac Tuesday to speak with regional leaders about topics that affect rural health care.
The congressman took part in a health care roundtable discussion at OSF HealthCare Saint James-John W. Albrecht Medical Center. The roundtable was co-hosted by OSF Saint James and the Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council.
Representatives from OSF HealthCare shared questions and concerns with Rep. Kinzinger, along with the Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council, the Mayor of Streator and other community leaders from Heritage Health, Evenglow Lodge, and The Pointe at Pontiac.
“This is an opportunity for me to hear from you, find out what you are seeing on the ground and take your concerns back to DC,” Congressman Kinzinger told the group.
The group discussed topics like the need for mental health resources and the Affordable Care Act. Rep. Kinzinger also touted the importance of innovation in health care, and how new technologies have the power to drastically reduce the cost of care.
“One of the areas I am actually really optimistic about is the role that I think innovation and technology are going to play in bringing the cost of health care down,” he said. “For instance, look at wearable devices that let you know if you are pre-diabetic or you have heart disease. If we can get people living healthier and being more aware of it, we can bring that cost curve down. And as you know, if we bring the cost of medicine down through innovation, you have better quality, better access, and frankly there’s more money to spend on people at that point.”
Another major issue in the 16th Congressional District is the challenge of opioid addiction and abuse. Rep. Kinzinger says the concern is a common theme throughout the district, and says he wants to find new ways to introduce alternative pain management methods.
“We all know the problem when it comes to opioid abuse, but we also know there are people who legitimately need these medicines,” he said. “We are trying to figure out areas where there are government barriers to find alternative methods to treat pain. There is a very important need for opioids, but is there something out there that in some of these folks’ cases that is non-addictive and can do the same kind of thing? And if there is, is the government blocking either the introduction of these medicines, the research of it? So we are trying to find ways for the government to back off and give room for innovation.”
Rep. Kinzinger was first elected to congress in 2010. He currently serves on the Committee on Energy and Commerce in the House. His subcommittee assignments are Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection, Communications and Technology, and Energy. The Congressman also serves on the Committee of Foreign Affairs and serves on the Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa, as well as the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.
SOURCE: OSF HealthCare
August 8, 2018
By Paul Westermeyer
Staff Reporter | Pontiac Daily Leader
The ever-increasing prominence of the STEAM initiative is usually thought to only encompass or concern schools. But on the local level, the local after-school Boys & Girls Club of Livingston County program has made it an extracurricular activity as well.
On Wednesday, the Boys & Girls Club received eight laptops from Advanced Technology Recycling free of charge, a donation facilitated by the Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council.
“What we were looking to do when starting the STEAM program was to appeal to the high school students at the Boys & Girls Club,” said Jodi Martin, the interim chief executive officer of the local youth organization.
“We were brainstorming about ways in which we could recruit teens into the Boys & Girls Club at Fairbury and in Pontiac. So we got in touch with (GLCEDC CEO Adam Dontz) and he reached out to ATR and helped get this setup for us.”
On the importance of technology to the Boys & Girls Club’s broader mission, Martin said that while the national organization was trending in this direction, it was still fairly new on the local level.
“It’s been prevalent across Boys & Girls Clubs across the United States to now focus on the three key priority outcomes, which are academic success, good character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles,” she explained.
“Within that goal of academic success, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America has 98 programs. But what’s been different here is that we haven’t accessed that much in the past, and now we’re seeing what it takes to be more successful.”
As evidence of STEAM being crucial for a flourishing academic environment, Martin referenced the tech-savvy culture of the junior high students of Pontiac School District 429. Last month, Pontiac Junior High School STEAM teacher Christine Chiodo told the Daily Leader that PJHS was one of 98 schools chosen for the state’s “Students for the Information Age” TECH 2018 event. The PJHS STEAM program also received similar assistance from the GLCEDC.
Martin expressed gratitude to both ATR, for the donation, and to Dontz, for facilitating the gift.
“If it weren’t for Adam and the GLCEDC, we wouldn’t have these laptops,” she said. “He’s really the reason this is happening, and it’s really great that ATR very generously donated to help us kick this off.”
For his part, Dontz commented that the GLCEDC helping out the Boys and Girls Club was in line with his organization’s goals of ensuring a workforce that could readily meet the job market of the future.
“Increasing the knowledge and skills of youth in our area is a critical component to ensuring the the longevity of a high quality workforce,” he said. “The GLCEDC is currently working with the Boys and Girls Club to promote their Science, Technology, Engineering and Math programming and we approached one of our members, Advanced Technology Recycling, and requested a donation of laptop computers to help the Boys and Girls Club.
“I’m deeply appreciative of ATR’s generosity and the Club’s commitment to advancing its program offerings.”
Dear GLCEDC Members and Friends:
The GLCEDC will be hosting its 9th Annual Golf Outing on Thursday, August 16, 2018 at the Dwight Country Club. The GLCEDC Golf Outing is an excellent opportunity to reconnect with existing friends and to meet new people!
Event registration and sponsorship information for the outing are contained in the two documents attached. If you have any questions regarding the outing, or would like additional information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to seeing you at the 9th Annual GLCEDC Golf Outing [and hopefully before!].
Thank you in advance for your support of the GLCEDC’s work to increase commerce and economic opportunity in the Greater Livingston County area.