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    BELLEVILLE — Peer 151, Metro East’s first broad-based effort to tap into the local startup world, is already proclaiming some success stories, even as it adapts to a challenging marketplace.
    Barely a year into its existence, the coworking and collaboration space at 15 N. First St., helped at least four businesses get off the ground, saw tremendous use of its training room and drew in both an attorney and an accountant who are aiding the on-site process.
p01 OswaldOswald    But there is a lot of work still to be done, Executive Director Chris Oswald said.
    Much of that simply involves getting the word out to people who need a place to do their work outside the home, or a place to gain valuable insight into starting a business.
    “I have no way of knowing how many people work from home in Metro East. That’s a challenge,” Oswald said. “On the St. Louis side, there is an active market of millennials who know they want to work in coworking space and are actively looking for one.
    “But because we’re first to market, the challenge is, first, to let them know we exist and then to talk to people who have been working from home for some time. And to show why coworking would be a good option for them.
    “It’s the challenge associated with being first to market,” he said. First to market means a market that has yet to be developed and a working public that has yet to realize the need for it.
    Oswald spends a lot of time on social media, reminding people of Peer 151’s services.
    “We’re really just trying to educate the market at this point,” he said.
    Peer charges set fees for people who care to use either the training facilities or the coworking space. Memberships are available for regular use.
    At any given time, Peer 151 has some 15 of its members in the building, which Oswald said is pretty good for the size of the business and the progress it’s made in the first year.
    The 48,000-square-foot building is the historic Turner Hall, known by most people around Belleville as the old YMCA, but today used by owner Kurt Artinger, for his business, Replacement Services LLC, and, for the last year, as a hub for startups.
    Artinger’s business is on the first floor. The second floor is devoted to separate spaces for coworking and training. Considerable expense has gone into remodeling the 90-plus-year-old building.
    Some 5,000 square feet of the second floor is devoted to coworking space. For $125 a month, members get access to space during business hours, as well as access to utilities, Wi-Fi, coffee bar, a break room with a beer bar, conference room and CEO guest speakers, among other things.

p01 AcademyA group of tech-savvy young people listens during a recent class of the Junior Code Academy, which meets at Peer 151 in Belleville.    BELLEVILLE — Michael Pedersen was simply looking for a way to spend time with his daughter, Chasity, when he introduced her to the hobby of computer coding.
    Little could he know that he would tap into a passion that would take each of them in exciting, new directions.
    Pedersen, a systems engineer for a military contractor in St. Louis, said he had deployed a lot in the military and hadn’t spent enough time with his kids as they were growing up. He decided to find some common ground, using his knowledge of computer coding.
    “My daughter is a junior high school student and I took the time to sit down with her and include her in the things that were going on in my life at work,” he said. “She really got a kick out of it. We started working on it together.”
    One day, his daughter suggested getting other kids involved with what they were doing.
    “Basically she helped me write my business plan,” Pedersen said, only half joking. “I’d seen some other coding classes for adults on the other side of the river, but no school on our side really offered it.”
    Before long, a dozen or so junior high and high school students were getting drawn in to what became known as the Junior Code Academy, a program to introduce them to a variety of computer classes, at varying skill levels, from simple programming to hackathon preparation.
    Pedersen, who has a master’s degree in intelligence studies and a bachelor’s in education and training, is the founder and CEO of the operation. He lists his daughter, Chasity as co-founder and junior instructor.
    The most consequential development for them came late last year when he found a home for the Academy, which now gathers at Peer 151, the new co-working, meeting and startup space operated at 15 N. First St. in Belleville.
    Peer’s Executive Director Chris Oswald “made our model work a whole lot easier,” Pedersen said. “With Peer 151 it is a fantastic model. I pretty much have use of the full space from 6:30 to 8:30 on Tuesday nights.”
    The Junior Code Academy has developed into one of Peer’s first success stories, fulfilling what everyone agrees is a real need.
    In just the next few years, the field of computer programming is going to explode, Pedersen said.
    “By 2020, you’re going to have about one million, unfilled computer science jobs across the country. That, mixed with the fact that St. Louis is booming as a market, and there is a lot of need for computer coders,” he said. “With a minimal amount of skills and some training, a lot of these kids could get involved with jobs that will pay $55,000 to $65,000 a year.”

    Illinois voters have the rare opportunity this fall to amend the state constitution, by acting upon a measure that passed the General Assembly with strong bipartisan support.
    Though it had been attempted and failed before, the so-called Lockbox Amendment breezed through the state approval process this year and aims to protect money intended for transportation infrastructure — roads, bridges and rail — from being “swept” for other purposes.
    “I sponsored a number of bills in my years as state senator, and most of them were longshots,” state Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, said of the measure he sponsored. “I thought there would be attempted opposition, because everyone doesn’t want to lose this pot of money. And it passed — unanimously. There were five constitutional amendments proposed and only one of them will be on the ballot. Mine.”
    Haine was sought out by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce to introduce the measure, HJRCA 36. Similar efforts had been tried and failed previously as state leaders continued to rely on sweeping the state Road Fund to help pay general expenses.
    Some $6.4 billion has been removed from the Road Fund since 2003. According to the Illinois Department of Revenue some $1.191 billion was collected in motor fuel taxes during the calendar year 2015.

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    NEW YORK – Simmons Hanly Conroy, one of the nation’s largest law firms focused on consumer protection and mass tort actions, Monday filed a class action complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York against Nissan Motor Co. alleging that large glass panoramic sunroofs on some Nissan vehicles have spontaneously shattered. Simmons Hanly Conroy is co-counsel in the case with Greg Coleman Law PC of Knoxville, Tenn., a prominent class action firm.
    The lawsuit claims that the shattering sunroofs pose a serious safety issue because many drivers report that the startling effect of the glass explosion causes accidents or near-miss accidents in addition to some drivers and passengers being cut by falling glass. According to the complaint, “The shattering occurs so powerfully that some startled drivers have compared the sound to a gunshot followed by shards of glass hitting the vehicle’s occupants.”
    The action seeks national and state class certification, injunctive relief, and damages on behalf of plaintiffs and others who bought or leased 2008 to present Nissan Rogue, Maxima, Sentra, Pathfinder, and Altima models; 2009-2011 Muranos models; and 2011 to present Juke models with factory-installed panoramic sunroofs.
    “Automobile manufacturers must be held accountable for defects that contribute to accidents and injury to drivers of their vehicles,” said Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholder Paul Hanly, lead counsel for the plaintiffs in this case. “Consumers make safety a top priority when choosing the vehicles they drive and manufacturers have a responsibility to sell vehicles without defects that jeopardize the safety of drivers and their families.”
    At least 60 owners of Nissan vehicles have reported to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration that the vehicle’s panoramic sunroofs have shattered. The complaint alleges Nissan has known about this problem since 2004 or earlier due to complaints to the NHTSA about defective sunroofs shattering in the 2003 Nissan Maxima’s “Skyview” sunroof. In 2004, Nissan issued a recall on the Maxima models to replace the “Skyview” sunrooms, but has issued no recalls since. In addition, the NHTSA is investigating Nissan and has requested information about its shattering panoramic sunroofs from 2006 to 2016.
    Hanly added, “Despite the high number of complaints and knowing of the danger posed by the defective sunroofs, Nissan has made no effort to alert consumers of the potential risk.”
    According to the complaint, sunroofs began evolving in the mid-2000s from what were modestly sized portions of the roof over the driver and front passenger seats, to those that cover almost the entire roof. The expanded sunroofs have posed new and significant engineering challenges because the required tempered glass plates take up much of the surface area of the vehicle’s roof, requiring precision in strengthening, attachment and stabilization.
    Nissan has sold at least a million vehicles with the panoramic sunroof in the United States since 2007. Marketed as a luxury upgrade, the high-cost, panoramic sunroof option attracted the plaintiffs in this case, as well as others, to buy or lease Nissan vehicles over less expensive models without the panoramic sunroof.
    The case is Subrina Seeraina, et al. v. Nissan North America, INC., Case No. 1:16-cv-05499; In the District Court for the Eastern District of New York.  The named plaintiff in the case is Subrina Seeraina, of Schenectady, N.Y.
    Simmons Hanly Conroy also is involved in pending litigation against Volkswagen on behalf of several thousand plaintiffs who were affected by the German automaker’s recent emissions scandal. In addition, Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholder Jayne Conroy served as a member of the Lead Counsel Committee for Economic Loss Claims for the MDL involving the Toyota Motor Corp. unintended acceleration litigation.

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, Ill. Read more at www.simmonsfirm.com.