Category: Newspapers

Over 100 jobs expected to come to Pontiac, Illinois

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.


Rec Center raising fees, eliminating drop-in cost

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

Dist. 429 board approves more STEAM teachers

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 Caterpillar plant celebrating 40 years

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.”

Program helping PC freshmen be more interested

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.”



Boys & Girls Club gets computers from ATR

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.”


New downtown coffee house offers crafted flavor

By Luke Smucker
Staff Reporter
The Daily Leader
February 14, 2018

A new cup of joe is making its mark in downtown Pontiac.

After months of planning and preparation, business owners Scott and Jennifer Cranford and co-owner Marty Fannin opened The Cup and The Scone coffee house, located at 213 W. Madison St., on Feb. 9.

Until he became an owner, Scott Cranford didn’t intend to operate a small business. Initially, he just wanted to work part-time at Starbucks, but after he and his wife came back from a trip to Europe, Jennifer suggested a coffee house.

“Although I’ve been a small business owner before, this is our first foodservice-based business,” she said. “When I lived in Minnesota, I ran a medical billing company for just under 20 years as well as a driving school. I also helped with the business planning of The Blend, a coffee shop in Washington, (Ill.), with my neighbor at the time.”

“So, I had an idea of the business structure of owning a coffee house, but my husband and I are really new to operating one.

Fortunately, we partnered with Marty Fannin, who has been in the industry for more than 30 years. So, all of the foodservice-based information is coming from him. “Together, I think the three of us make quite the team.” Even with an idea and the proper people in place, the business still needed a location.

After a lot of prayers, the idea to buy the location on Madison Street came to Scott during a walk with his wife.

“We were walking down Madison Street and it just came to me,” Scott said. “I wanted to call it ‘The Cup and The Scone’ because I really like old English coffee houses. Although we’re not located directly on the square, we like this location because everybody
seems to drive down Mill Street in front of Bernardi’s II and DeLong’s and most people make that left turn on to Madison

The coffee houses’ rustic interior is made up of ideas from the Cranfords’ daughter, Olivia, and Jennifer Cranford. The owners say they can comfortably seat about 80 people.

“We wanted something with an old English feel, something like you might find in Europe,” Jennifer Cranford said. “We wanted something that is cozy, comfortable and a little timeless. Our daughter, Olivia, is a little more cutting-edge, so she pushed us to go a little bit modern.”

Although the decorating is mostly complete, Scott said there are still a few finishing touches to be added. “We want to give each booth a stretched canvas, which depicts the history of old English coffee houses,” Scott said. “That is my contribution.”

The Cranfords bought the location last September and spent the past five months in construction.

Along the way, both had their fears and doubts. During the rough times, the couple says they looked to one another and God for support.

“There were moments leading up to this, where I was pretty overwhelmed, to say the least,” Jennifer said. “In those moments, I was glad to have my husband with me, he’d always keep me calm.”

“I’ve had my moments, too,” Scott added. “I remember one time when my wife and my daughter walked in here and I was sitting on some of the building materials. The walls had just been tuck-pointed and acid washed and there was dust everywhere.

“We were talking about when we were going to open and all of a sudden, I just remember saying, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me. When are we going to open? I don’t even know when we’re going to get the floor cleaned.’”

In the darkest moments, the Cranfords say Fannin always knew how to find the answer.

“Marty would stop us and say, ‘let’s pray about it for 10 minutes.’ Every time we prayed about it, someone came through for us — it has been very humbling,” Scott said.

The coffee house’s signature roast is a five-bean blend called Black Velvet, which features rich caramel notes.

“It is good hot, but it gets better cold and it’s great at room temperature,” Scott said. “A lot of people will tell us, ‘I need cream and sugar,’ but then they take a couple drinks of Black Velvet and they’re OK drinking it black, I have never seen anything like it. I tell people all the time, ‘adding cream and sugar to this coffee is kind of like adding ketchup to a steak at a restaurant.’”

When it comes to coffee, the owners say there isn’t much they can’t make. Their specialty is a Kyoto cold brew. Kyoto is a traditional Japanese cold brew that is never heated.

“It takes 10 to 12 hours to make, but I can get unbelievable flavors out of it — like nothing you’ve ever had before,” Scott said. “You’ve heard of craft brews before? This is craft coffee. I think we’re the only ones who offer a Kyoto south of Chicago.”

The coffee house also features a number of baked items to complement their coffee.

“I don’t want to compete with Pfaff’s Bakery because I love it so much,” Scott said. “However, I like scones and I wanted to bring that European feel to this place by offering some scones and muffins to compliment our coffee.

“Our baker, Anna, has knocked it out of the ballpark since we opened. People are coming to get so many scones that we have used up what we thought would be enough scone mix to last us three weeks.”

They also offer a gluten-free option for those with food restrictions. “We want people who are on a gluten-free diet to be able to enjoy our food,” Scott Cranford said. “We want people who are eating a gluten-free muffin or scone to feel like they are eating the real deal.”

The Cup and The Scone is open Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“We don’t want this to be a place you only come once per week,” Scott said. “We want people to come and hang out here with their kids. This isn’t another restaurant where we want you to eat and leave, we are hoping you will stop on in and stay a while.”

For more information, search for “The Cup and The Scone” on Facebook, or visit


Woodland getting ahead of the game

STREATOR — Recent years have seen the job market trend increasingly toward careers requiring skills in computation, engineering and manufacturing, and the desire for education to meet those demands has expressed itself in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics academic discipline.

And Woodland High School is putting itself ahead of the curve, becoming the first school district in Livingston County to implement a STEM curriculum for all its grades, K through 12.

But ambitious programs such as these require a bit more than sheer determination and sweat — they need a serious capital investment.

That’s where the beneficence and patronage of Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council, along with Country Financial and Streator Onized Credit Union, is crucial: after the GLCEDC helped procure a seed grant of $31,000 for Woodland, the insurance agency and the bank pitched in as well.

With the investments, Ryan McGuckin, superintendent of the Woodland School District, said that Woodland had teamed with Texas Instruments to add its line of TI-Nspire series of graphing calculators to the school’s repertoire.

He believed that the science teachers and math teachers had been able to utilize such technologies to “revolutionize the curriculum,” making it even ready to tackle “the 22nd Century” when it arrives.

Hannah Cox, the STEM teacher at Woodland, works with the grant equipment and gave a specific accounting of its impact in the classroom.

“My students get to learn about things that they don’t necessarily get to see in an everyday chemistry class or an everyday math classroom,” she said. “They get to build it … They get to see how it actually works on a small-scale, and how it should work on a large-scale.”

A project that Cox is particularly excited about is the arrival of futuristic Texas Instruments TI-Innovator Rovers, purchased by the school due largely to the largesse of Country Financial.

“With Country Financial, they were able to give us money to buy what are called Texas Instruments Innovator Rovers, which are these little robots that we’re able to use with the calculators we have now,” she said, explaining that the Rovers could essentially be piloted once connected with a calculator.

“It’s really cool and I’m really excited about it,” she added.

Kevin Derossett, the representative of Country Financial of Dwight whom Cox had first approached about procuring cutting edge tech, said humorously that today’s technology made him nostalgic for a time when “you could make a computer screen flicker like a strobe light.”

On a more serious note, though, he said Cox’s enthusiasm was “inspirational” and a “great opportunity to give back to the local community.”

Lori Christopherson, a representative of SOCU, added that her employer is pitching in for consumable supplies for Woodland.

“We were told that they needed consumable products so … we found out what that need was,” she said. “We wanted to make sure we were giving back to the community in that regard.”

In addition to the recent bequests from SOCU and Country Financial, McGuckin also expressed gratitude to the GLCEDC for helping kick off Woodland’s significant expansion of its STEM curriculum.

“If not for the generous grant from the (GLCEDC), we couldn’t do this,” he said.

CEO Adam Dontz said that after the initial grant, which he likened to a seed, was planted, he was encouraged that other community organizations and businesses helped the school bear fruit.

“I think we were the initial contributor to help Woodland really develop its STEM program, and what I was really pleased by was that from our initial contribution, not only has Woodland received additional benefit and partnerships with Country (Financial) and SOCU, but then they’ve also brought in other local businesses like Iberdrola and others.

“I was happiest to hear from what Ryan conveyed is that, stemming from what we did, it has really become a community effort.”

The Daily Leader
By Paul Westermeyer
Staff Reporter
January 18, 2018

STEM Comes to Life in Woodland Classrooms

Baily Stipp and Cameron Price, measure the temperature of a greenhouse they made in the STEM class, which was funded through donations from the Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council, Country Financial and SOCU.

Woodland instructor Hannah Cox’s students are learning about things they don’t necessarily get to see in an everyday math or chemistry classroom.

Since the beginning of the school year, students have worked with greenhouses, wind energy, model rockets, model towers and skyscrapers, among other items.

With the help of the community, Woodland Unit 5 has become the first kindergarten through 12th-grade district in Livingston County to offer STEM curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

Cox teaches the high school STEM class, which currently has 11 students in it who must meet math and science requirements to qualify for the class.

“We’ve done a lot,” Cox said. “Right now we’re in the middle of energy consumption based project, talking about solar power with wind . … They actually get a lot of free reign and they get a lot of hands-on. They get the benefit from using their own thought processes and learning about using what you have to make something greater. It’s very interesting to see how things turn out. They all work really well together.”

The Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council contributed $31,000 for the initial purchase of classroom equipment, and Country Financial and SOCU have contributed financial support as well.

“The economic development council has worked with three school districts for STEM funding,” said Adam Dontz, of the council. “The funding requires three components: professional development, curriculum development and purchase of equipment for STEM training. Woodland has put together a program to do just that.

“We were the initial contributor to help Woodland kick off,” Dontz continued. “From our initial contributions, not only has Woodland gotten help from SOCU and Country Financial … stemming from what we’ve began, it has really turned into other community members helping as financiers and guest speakers. Our funding wasn’t meant to be ongoing. (It was) provided to accelerate implementation of STEM program at Woodland.”

The lessons high school students learn in their classroom trickle down to the rest of the district’s 550 students as well. The high school students go into elementary classrooms to pass on some of the concepts they have learned, and math and science teachers incorporate some STEM concepts into their curriculum for junior high students.

Another component of the program is that people in the community with STEM-related jobs will come to Cox’s class on a regular basis to talk about what they’re doing.

Cox is excited about Rover robots that Country Financial will fund, which will allow the robots to perform tasks through commands from a calculator.

“When Hannah came to me, it inspired me,” said Country Financial Agent and Woodland alumnus Kevin Derossett. “I remember when computers were first coming out and we thought the flashing green light on the screen was cool. It’s a great opportunity for my company to give back and as an alumnus of Woodland, this is where my heart is.”

Money contributed by SOCU is being used for consumable supplies for the curriculum.

“With our presence in Streator, Dwight and Livingston County, we are thrilled to give back to the community,” said Lori Christopherson, of SOCU
The district has contributed $10,000 and teamed with Texas Instruments to purchase items from the Inspire series such as probes and thermometers that are used on a daily basis.

“Over the next few years the school will have a trainer come once every other month that shows teachers not only how to use the equipment but also expand the equipment use,” said Superintendent Ryan McGuckin. “Really, we could do none of this without the contributions of the community and Livingston County.”

CREDIT­cfb9-530f-90e1-344 75f4 76fe4.html
STEM comes to life in Woodland classrooms
Jerrilyn Zavada,

OSF and BCBSIL Reach Agreement

November 22, 2017
OSF HealthCare – Press Release

(Peoria, IL – November 22, 2017) – OSF HealthCare has reached an agreement with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) to ensure patients have uninterrupted access to extensive high quality, in-network, medical care and services, including pediatric, neurologic, and cardiovascular care. All OSF HealthCare hospitals and services will continue to be in network now and in the New Year.

“We are pleased to have finalized a continuation of OSF HealthCare’s relationship with BCBSIL that ensures patients and families have in-network access to the treatments and services they need,” said Randy Billings, senior vice president of population health. “We realize this situation caused concern for our patients and families, and appreciate the support and patience of local businesses and community leaders.”

OSF HealthCare hospitals and providers are in-network caregivers for BCBSIL today, and will remain in network moving forward into 2018. This includes BCBSIL Commercial, PPO, EPO, and Blue Choice products that BCBSIL terminated previously. For a complete listing, visit

OSF HealthCare has been recognized by Blue Cross and Blue Shield for quality and safety, earning several distinctions including Blue Distinction Total Care and BlueStar Status.

OSF HealthCare is ranked in the top 20 percent of large health care systems in the country by Truven, an independent health care analytics research company and OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report among the top 50 pediatric facilities in the U.S. in two pediatric specialties.

Additionally, OSF HealthCare has been recognized as one of the Most Wired systems in the country for six years in a row, and has been named a Top ACO by Becker’s.

About OSF HealthCare: OSF HealthCare is an integrated health system owned and operated by The Sisters of the Third Order of St.
Francis, headquartered in Peoria, Illinois. OSF HealthCare employs nearly 19,000 Mission Partners in 115 locations, including 11 hospitals – 7
acute care, 4 critical access – and two colleges of nursing throughout Illinois and Michigan. Its physician network employs nearly 1,200
primary care, specialist physicians, and advanced practice providers. OSF HealthCare operates an extensive network of home health
services; owns OSF Saint Francis, Inc., composed of health care-related businesses; and OSF HealthCare Foundation, the philanthropic arm
for the organization. OSF Innovation, ranked among the top 10 innovation centers in the country, is located in Jump Trading Simulation &
Education Center. More at

[CLICK to read entire press release in PDF format]

Dist 429’s Curriculum Moving Full STEAM Ahead

November 15, 2017
Pontiac Daily Leader

[CLICK to read entire article]

City of Fairbury Approves Property Tax Abatement for BMCH Properties

October 19, 2017
Pontiac Daily Leader

[CLICK to read entire article]

Pontiac District #429 students use STEAM to graph weather data

Kinzinger Feels Failed Health Plan Misunderstood

August 10, 2017
Pontiac Daily Leader

[CLICK to read entire article]

County Board opts to help with health care

July 21, 2017
Pontiac Daily Leader

[CLICK to read entire article]

Money still an issue, but not so much of a concern

July 21, 2017
Pontiac Daily Leader

[CLICK to read entire article]

ATR in agreement with county

The Daily Leader
May 19, 2017


Technical Metals moving forward with some help

The Daily Leader
May 6, 2017


School District Still Not Getting State Money

The Daily Leader
April 21, 2017


Unemployment Numbers Could Change

The Daily Leader
March 22, 2017


Location Change Really No Issue Here

Feb 3, 2017
Pontiac Daily Leader


Jobless Rate Creeps Up In October

November 19, 2016
Pontiac Daily Leader

[CLICK to read entire article]

District Moving Full STEAM Ahead

November 15, 2016
Pontiac Daily Leader

[CLICK to read entire article]

Leader: CEO Feels It Has Been A Good Year

Pontiac Daily Leader
November 3, 2016

[CLICK to download PDF of article]

Cat Plant Gets Makeover for Consolidation

September 16, 2016
Pontiac Daily Leader (link to article)

The sprawling, 1 million-square-foot Caterpillar facility of Pontiac opened its doors to the press Thursday morning, as officials gave local media a short presentation and fielded questions, as well as taking the visiting journalists on a tour of the plant — a rare occurrence in the 38 years that Caterpillar has operated within the building.

The local Caterpillar plant has had plenty of reason to show off in recent months. Since the $1.6 million deal between the heavy equipment corporation and several municipal and school entities within Livingston County was finalized earlier this year, the local operation has added 80 new employees, and has plans to add 80 more by January.

The essence of the agreement was for the governmental bodies to pay Caterpillar approximately $1.6 million to retain its current employee base of 550, and to offer additional money for jobs the plant creates, along with a tax abatement on the table if certain job creation criteria are met over the next five years.

The Livingston County Board, the main financial backer, had clawback provision protection should Caterpillar renege on the deal in some way — namely, by closing the plant.

During the presentation, Susan Toher, the plant’s product manager, said that the addition of the jobs also coincided with the closure of Caterpillar facilities in Thomasville, Ga., and Santa Fe, N.M., and those plants’ operations and equipment consolidating in Pontiac.

During the tour of the plant, Steven Harding, the plant’s facility manager, pointed out that $12 million in equipment investments had been added to Pontiac, and that areas of the facility that were empty would soon be completely full.
Before the consolidation, Toher noted that the Pontiac facility, a fuel systems plant, made fuel injectors and pumps. After the consolidation, she said that the after-treatment parts previously made in Santa Fe — which she compared to catalytic converters in vehicles — would now be made in Pontiac. She said that the company had done a lot of “moving around and reconfiguring” to make space for the incoming equipment.

On the decision to consolidate, Toher said that a corporate analysis was done to assess advantages and disadvantages of where consolidation would occur, and found that the Pontiac location’s square footage would allow for “leverage of existing resources.”

Toher said that much of the additional work being done at the facility is similar to what had been done before, but some new jobs would require skilled labor, such as welding, which had not previously existed at the Pontiac plant.

Kevin Kramer, the plant’s human resources manager, said that most of the hires following the consolidation were local, estimating that 25 to 30 of the recent hires were transfers from the Santa Fe and Thomasville plants.

The deal brokered between the public and private sectors was not reached without critique; when asked about such criticism, Kramer said the decision “showed us that the community really values Caterpillar and its presence in the community, and we view it as a very positive thing.” He hoped that Caterpillar’s own involvement in the community, such as its $100,000 donation to United Way, showed that the positive relationship was reciprocal.

After the tour, Caterpillar employee Shannon Ziegler, who is a Livingston County native, Pontiac facility veteran and, most recently, a transfer from the Georgia facility, said he was not at all surprised that Livingston County had stepped up to make the Pontiac plant as attractive an option as possible following consolidation.

“This town as always been good for all the businesses here, but it was just amazing (hearing about the deal),” he said. “It just really sunk right to your heart.”

Pontiac’s Caterpillar Plant Adds 80 Jobs

September 16, 2016
PANTAGRAPH (link to article)

PONTIAC — Pontiac’s Caterpillar plant has reached the halfway point of its promise to hire 160 employees by next summer.

“We have hired 80 new employees since the January announcement and have plans to hire at least 80 more employees by early 2017,” Senior Public Affairs Manager Jamie Fox said.

In January, Caterpillar announced plans to add about 160 jobs to its existing Pontiac plant as a result of company restructuring. The announcement came following an economic incentive agreement with the company and Livingston County taxing bodies, which abated property taxes as incentive for the plant to stay in the county and add jobs.

The fuel systems facility in Pontiac marked its 38th year in operation this year, but new operations will be added as part of the restructuring, said Susan Toher, product manager for the Pontiac facility.

“Our plant looks totally different than it did in January,” she said. “We’ve done a lot of construction and a lot of preparation to bring some jobs here. If you walked through the facility last year, you would not have thought we would have room. But we relocated 114 machines and we found the room.”

The Pontiac plant is about 1 million square feet, she said. The new positions include the manufacturing of subcomponents for engines for some of Caterpillar’s bigger machines.

In announcing the restructuring in January, the Peoria-based manufacturer announced that five other plants would close, resulting in a net loss of 670 jobs. However, the Pontiac plant was given a vote of confidence with the announcement that some work would be transferred in.

“Our employees are really excited and as a company, we are all working hard to be competitive, and improve our safety, overall performance, and efficiency goals,” she said. “The company sent a positive message to us and it’s great to see our employees and the community stay behind us.”

About 700 employees now work at the Pontiac plant.

“With different types of work, come more opportunities and we have seen a lot of long-time employees applying for new positions in an effort to gain some new skills,” Fox said.

© GLCEDC | All Rights Reserved | D5 Business Line Theme by: D5 Creation | Powered by: WordPress