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    A free-for-all is developing among Illinois communities vying to beat a year-end deadline for enterprise zone designations.
    Some 49 zones will be expiring within two years and every one will be up for grabs. Competition is likely to be fierce because the original zones were so successful.
    The River Bend Enterprise Zone in the Alton area, for example, has generated $450 million in new investment, created 2,800 jobs and retained more than 10,000 jobs, according to state records. The Southwestern Madison County zone in the Granite City area did even better. It generated more than $1.5 billion in new investment while creating 3,100 new jobs and retaining 10, 500.
    The Illinois General Assembly authorized the establishment of up to 97 enterprise zones by passage of the Enterprise Zone Act in 1982. Both individual municipalities and groups of municipalities submitted applications to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs, the state’s economic development arm since renamed the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, during the ensuing years.
    During the mid-’80s, Madison County teamed with the Tri-Cities and River Bend areas to create two enterprise zones. With the exception of two new zones created by the Southwestern Illinois Development Authority in the 1990s, no new zones have been available for nearly 30 years. Each had a 20-year life span and were extended by another 10 years.
    Now the oldest of the zones are expiring — 49 in all — within two years, and all 49 zones will be available through a competitive application process. Another 43 zones will expire and be up for grabs over the next four years.
    John Herzog, Madison County’s economic development coordinator, is working with the River Bend and Tri-Cities communities on new applications. He said that he expects the new boundaries to closely align with the existing boundaries, but it’s yet to be determined what local incentives will be included.
    Enterprise zones generally include some amount of property tax abatement and breaks on building permits as some of the local incentives. State incentives include abatement of sales taxes on building materials and utility taxes.
    Applications are due by the end of the year and will be scored by DCEO on a list of 10 criteria. Herzog said that the qualifying criteria have changed significantly since those first applications in the mid-’80s.
    “Out of the 10 criteria, eight of them are related to the labor market,” he said. “Each applicant has to identify its labor market, which is essentially the area that they expect the workforce to come from.”

    GRAFTON — Their swim has often been against the current the last three years, but a group of local partners this month hopes to finally flip the switch on a $4 million Asian carp processing plant.
    Success is in the wind  — almost literally.
    American Heartland Fish Products LLC has called in several experts in an attempt to get to the bottom of odor detected by neighbors outside the plant. Organic compounds are being added to the fish processing in an attempt to neutralize any smell, but testing so far has not quelled concerns, which some residents have taken to the Grafton City Council.
    CEO Gray “Butch” Magee Jr. said experts have been visiting the site at 20201 State Highway 3 since May 16.
    During early testing, there were some equipment malfunctions, but those problems were quickly corrected, he said.
    “The instructions we received reduced the amount of odor to some extent, but there still remains an unacceptable malodorous smell. Although the degree has been reduced it is still not acceptable,” Magee said, in a letter to Grafton Mayor Tom Thompson, which was copied to the Illinois Business Journal.
    Multiple reasons for the odors are being looked at, including whether the smell is being caused by processing of the entire fish, rather than parts of it.
    The solution will rest with testing a variety of natural compounds, or perhaps addition of scrubbing equipment, inventor Ken Mosley said.
    “Whatever it takes, we’re going to do it,” he said. “We’re trying to be proactive about this and a good neighbor.”
    Mosley noted that the same problem surfaced with the launch of a similar plant in Greensboro, Ala., and was eventually worked out.
    “These are people not used to a plant startup. We went through this in Greensboro. There’s nothing unusual about it; it just takes time,” he said.
    At stake is potentially millions in revenue and a stream of steady income for fishermen throughout Southwestern Illinois. A net of interest has been cast far and wide in the success of the project, in part because the effort could help tackle a growing invasive species problem.
    After a month of trials, American Heartland expects to go live this month operating on a 2-acre site. It’s part of a 13-acre industrial park controlled by the group.
    Principal partners are Magee, Ben Allen and Bryon LeBeau. They needed only an old, but solidly built, 13,000-square-foot apple storage facility for a location. The operational intricacies were a bit more complicated and required installation of specialized equipment as well as input from Auburn (Ala.) University and others.

p16Photo courtesy of Justine Petersen

From left, Aida Ibragimova and Galen Gondolfi of Justine Petersen discuss financing options recently with Sharon Echols, proprietor of Miss M’s Candy Boutique.
    GRANITE CITY — The nation’s second-largest SBA microlender and one of its strongest advocates for first-time homebuyers is looking to expand its footprint in Metro East to assist more people in building their dreams.
    The Justine Petersen organization, which recently opened an office in Granite City as a complement to its longtime operations based in St. Louis, has a dedicated loan pool for businesses located in Madison and St. Clair counties through a partnership with Bank of Edwardsville.
    While the goals are pretty simple, the methods to achieve them are fraught with challenges, especially for potential clients not used to dealing with banks and governments. Justine Petersen, named for a woman who spent much of her life developing special mortgages for first-time homebuyers in the St. Louis area, has been cutting through red tape for the past 18 years.
    Housing is one of three focuses of the agency, including first-time homeownership,  refinancing and loan modification. And housing is not Justine Petersen’s primary focus.
    “Microlending is,” said Galen Gondolfi, chief communication officer. “We’re the nation’s second-largest microlender for the Small Business Administration. For both business and consumer lending. We’re now dipping our toe into consumer lending.”
    The third major focus “is credit building, and it permeates all that we do,” Gondolfi said. “When we’re talking to a client about buying a home, be it home prep or refinancing, it’s all about restoring the credit score. We do a lot of credit-building activity. It’s part of a national movement advanced by Credit Builders Alliance, which seeks to enlist microfinance organizations like Justine Petersen to support this idea of building credit scores.”
    The agency’s “big message” stresses good credit as a solid foundation for just about everything.


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image005    ST. LOUIS (June 4, 2014) – Simmons Browder Gianaris Angelides & Barnerd LLC and Hanly Conroy Bierstein Sheridan Fisher & Hayes LLP, national leaders in mass tort and complex litigation, announced today the two law firms will merge effective July 1 of this year. The firm will be called Simmons Hanly Conroy and have offices in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, St. Louis and Alton, Ill. The new firm will continue to represent victims of corporate wrongdoing.

    “The merger gives us a New York office, expands our attorney depth and creates a streamlined practice with centuries of litigation experience,” said Chairman John Simmons. “Together, we are positioned as a dominant national leader in asbestos, mass tort and complex litigation matters, and we are especially pleased that Jayne Conroy will continue her leadership role as a named shareholder in the merged firm.”
    Simmons and Hanly Conroy have been co-counsel partners for over a decade, successfully resolving products liability litigations including Oxycontin, Chantix, Yaz and Toyota unintended acceleration cases. The merger is a natural progression of the firms’ existing relationship, said Simmons.
    The Simmons Firm employs more than 60 attorneys and 150 professional support staff spread among five offices in St. Louis, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Alton, Ill. Founded in 1999 by Simmons, the firm quickly developed a national reputation in asbestos litigation by securing a $250 million verdict against U.S. Steel on behalf of a factory worker diagnosed with mesothelioma.
    Hanly Conroy operates out of New York and employs nine attorneys. Formed in 2002 by Paul Hanly and Jayne Conroy, the firm has assumed leadership roles in high profile, multi-jurisdictional litigation such as the September 11 litigation, Pinnacle hip replacement litigation and more.
    “The firm’s extensive federal court experience and national resources will be a winning combination for clients and position us to not only evolve but thrive in an ever-changing, competitive legal marketplace,” said Shareholder Paul Hanly.
    In addition to Simmons, Hanly and Conroy, current Simmons shareholders Perry Browder, Ted Gianaris, John Barnerd and Michael Angelides will continue to serve in management roles. John Simmons will serve as Chairman and Michael Angelides as Managing Shareholder. Browder will continue to manage the firm’s asbestos department, and Hanly will oversee the firm’s complex litigation department.
    “The name on the door has changed over the years, but this firm has never been about any one person,” Simmons said. “It’s always been about doing what’s right for our clients. That will never change.”
About Simmons Browder Gianaris Angelides & Barnerd LLC
The Simmons Firm is a national litigation firm with practices focusing on asbestos, dangerous drugs and medical devices, intellectual property infringement, environmental litigation, consumer protection and contingent fee commercial litigation. With offices in Illinois, Missouri and California, the firm has secured more than $4 billion in verdicts and settlements on behalf of thousands of clients throughout the country. For more information about the Simmons Firm, visit http://www.simmonsfirm.com.
About Hanly Conroy Bierstein Sheridan Fisher Hayes LLP
Hanly Conroy is a national litigation firm based in Manhattan and known for its work on high-profile, complex legal cases of national scope including September 11 litigation, Depuy hip replacement litigation, Toyota unintended acceleration litigation and more. Co-founded in 2002 by Paul Hanly and Jane Conroy, the firm provides sophisticated legal counsel to its clients in the areas of pharmaceutical mass torts, commercial litigation, class actions, environmental litigation and entertainment law. Learn more at http://www.hanlyconroy.com.