By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
EDWARDSVILLE — Two planned Amazon fulfillment centers mean a hiring boom in Edwardsville this month, but they also cement the region’s growing reputation as a logistics and distribution center, which could be just as valuable in coming years, local leaders say.
The road to the big announcement this past month was filled with behind-the-scenes negotiation, confidentiality agreements and the kind of secrecy one would expect when a Fortune 100 business starts showing interest and promising 1,000 full-time jobs.
Edwardsville city officials got their first inkling through their own sources, before Amazon ever made contact, said Walter Williams, director of Economic and Community Development. Rumors were floating around as far back as the third or fourth quarter of 2015.
“But nothing became concrete until the first quarter of 2016,” he said. That was an email from Amazon’s Director of Economic Development Tony Boetto to Williams in January.
“It said, ‘We’d like to get together and talk about Amazon.’ That confirmed with us that it was real,” Williams recalled. “That was on Jan. 20. But before we could have any kind of a conversation on Jan. 21, we had to sign a nondisclosure agreement.”
The confidentiality period has since expired, having bound the city only to the initial dealings with Amazon, he said.
Amazon had already been in conversation with the state.
“Jim Schultz, the (former) director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, came to Edwardsville (in mid-December) to kick the tires,” Williams said. “He wouldn’t allude to anything he was doing. He wanted to see the two (building) locations specifically. You could read between the lines. You knew something was brewing.” Schultz has since left DCEO to become the appointed chief executive officer of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s new Illinois Business and Economic Development Corporation.
The new buildings are at 3931 Lakeview Corporate Drive in Lakeview Commerce Center and 3050 Gateway Commerce Center Drive in the Gateway complex. They are about two miles apart. The first is just off New Poag Road, the second just off Illinois 255.
At press time, Amazon had reserved several dates for job fairs at the Leclaire Room of the N.O. Nelson Complex in Edwardsville. The dates of possible fairs are July 12, 14, 19, 21, 26 and 28. Official announcements on specific hiring dates were pending at press time.
Some of the hirings will be done “on the spot.” Wages will be standard for the industry and competitive for the area, Williams said.
By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
SCOTT AFB — A big party is on the horizon for one of the most important employers in the region.
Scott Air Force Base is turning 100 years old in 2017 and planning is already underway.
To be sure, the installation is a survivor, having dodged multiple base-closing rounds through the years and evolving to become one of the most important military facilities in the United States, with missions around the globe.
A committee made up of base organizations, major mission partners, retirees and local community entities is planning the centennial. The first discussions, primarily among military personnel, began more than six months ago.
A number of events are being contemplated, though the only locked-in date is the air show and open house planned on June 10 and 11, 2017, and featuring the United States Air Force Thunderbirds.
Other activities are expected to include a Race Through History/Scavenger Hunt in April; a St. Clair County Annual Armed Forces Ball in May; a Retiree Appreciation Day and Annual Air Force Ball in September; and a Fall Festival and Thank You in October.
IBJ staff report
SPRINGFIELD — An immediate budget crisis was put to rest on the last day of June, but everyone in the mix acknowledges there is a long way to go to get Illinois out of its financial hole.
There was a giant sigh of relief when the Illinois General Assembly passed — and the governor quickly signed — a six-month, stopgap measure that would help keep construction projects going and help human service providers stay open.
“After more than a year without a budget, this partial budget is not a ‘mission accomplished’,” said Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea.
The legislation does not address how to reduce the state’s $8 billion bill backlog nor how to pay for the additional spending.
The partial budget does, however, ensure that schools will open on time, provides need-based financial aid for college students, keeps road repair workers on the job and funds care for elderly Illinoisans.
The June 30 vote marked the seventh time the Illinois House passed a budget that did not include items from Gov. Bruce Rauner’s personal agenda. The difference this time was the governor dropped his demand that his agenda be considered before a budget could be approved.
State Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, said he is happy to find compromise in this legislation because the Illinois Department of Transportation now will have the resources to keep its road construction projects going.
“But that’s not the only win we had,” Haine said. “Human services agencies like Senior Service Plus, Impact CIL and St. John’s Community Care will finally receive some of the relief they need to keep their doors open and serve seniors and those with disabilities.”
The measure also contains Capital Development Board projects, including renovations for the old science building at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and improvements to residential buildings at the Alton Mental Health Center, he said.
Haine said he would continue traveling to Springfield, participating in working groups and urging the rest of the legislature to prioritize the needs of the middle class and working families.
“There are plenty of things that we all agree on, and I am committed to continuing discussions and negotiations until a full budget is passed,” he said.
On the Republican side of the equation, state Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, said some of the immediate pressure is off.
“This is a major improvement from where we were 12 months ago, however, I won’t give up advocating for more bipartisanship in order to obtain a balanced budget indefinitely,” Kay said.
The agreement ensures K-12 schools receive the funding to open on time and remain open for the upcoming school year. Funding will be made available for all of the public colleges and universities in Southwestern Illinois, as well as for MAP grants for college students, Kay noted.
ALTON – A lifelong desire to help others, a commitment to know each of her clients on a personal level, and a drive to be involved with every step of her cases makes Simmons Hanly Conroy mesothelioma attorney Karoline Carstens stand out from her peers. It is her compassion and accomplishments both as a lawyer and volunteer in her community that have garnered Carstens distinction and recognition from the Illinois State Bar Association as a Young Lawyer of the Year for 2016.
“Karoline’s significant settlement results, her exceptional lawyering skills and her commitment to the Illinois bar and Illinois pro bono community make her an exceptional choice for the Young Lawyer of the Year award,” said Perry J. Browder, a shareholder and head of the Asbestos Litigation Group. “Karoline works on all aspects of her clients’ cases which are filed in multiple courts around the country. Her work generates immediate results for her clients who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma – one of the rarest and deadliest forms of cancer.”
Carstens was presented the award at the June 18 ISBA Assembly Meeting in Chicago. Each year, two attorneys – one from Cook County and one from elsewhere in Illinois – receive the award.
“We congratulate Karoline on this well-deserved recognition for her career accomplishments and for her outstanding contributions to serving her community and the legal profession,” said John Simmons, chairman of Simmons Hanly Conroy.
Since joining the firm in 2006 as an associate, Carstens has assisted in recovering hundreds of millions of dollars for her clients. Following her early work in the firm’s Complex Litigation Department prosecuting consumer class action, Qui Tam and pharmaceutical cases, Carstens focuses her practice on helping those affected by asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma.
Prior to joining Simmons Hanly Conroy, Carstens served as an intern at the McLean County, Ill., State’s Attorney’s Office and as a legal assistant at Robert Half Legal, working on a lead poisoning case. She earned her law degree from Northern Illinois University, where she externed at the Zeke Giorgi Legal Clinic in Rockford, IL and served as vice president of the NIU chapter of Amnesty International.
A commitment to serving her community has been integral to Carstens’ career as an attorney. As a member of the ISBA Young Lawyer Division Section Council, Carstens helps procure sponsorships to benefit the Children’s Assistance Fund. She is also a founding member of Young Friends of Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation and serves as chair of the annual CLE Committee. For Simmons Hanly Conroy, she led the development of a pro bono program associated with the Madison County Pro Bono Guardian Ad Litem Program and the John Marshall Law School Veteran’s Legal Support Center Pro Bono Attorney Network. Her service to the pro bono program garnered her the Veterans Pro Bono Service Award in 2009 from the Supreme Court of Illinois and John Marshall Law School. Carstens also volunteers her legal services through the Madison County Legal Advice Clinic.
ISBA Young Lawyers of the Year recipients must be ISBA members in good standing who have not yet reached age 36.
About Simmons Hanly Conroy, LLC
Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC is one of the nation’s largest mass tort law firms and has recovered more than $5 billion in verdicts and settlements for plaintiffs. Primary areas of litigation include asbestos and mesothelioma, pharmaceutical, consumer protection, environmental and personal injury. The firm’s attorneys have been appointed to leadership in numerous national multidistrict litigations, including Vioxx, Yaz and Toyota Unintended Acceleration. The firm also represents small and mid-size corporations, inventors and entrepreneurs in matters involving business litigation. Offices are located in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Alton, Illinois. Read more at www.simmonsfirm.com.