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p01 lakefrontA mixed-use development will be blended with this lakefront setting along Illinois Route 143 at Interstate 55 in Edwardsville. IBJ photo

    Pin Oak Plaza, a 95-acre, mixed-use development at the southwest corner of the Interstate 55 and Highway 143 interchange in Edwardsville will soon be getting underway, according to Sean Goding, president of Pangea Development Co.
    Pangea owns the site and has secured a master developer for the project. It will be a joint partnership between C.W. Byron Properties, L.L.C. and Plocher Construction Co., which will own, manage and perform the site development work.  
    Construction is scheduled to begin in the summer.
    As currently planned, Pin Oak Plaza will combine a light industrial and logistics business park component with a mixed-use commercial frontage plaza that will include a hotel, one or more restaurants and related amenities.
    The development will contain a dedicated entry off Illinois Route 143, tree-lined streets, a 2-acre lake and green space buffers.  Pin Oak Plaza adds to the ongoing development of the Interstate 55 Edwardsville, Glen Carbon and Troy Corridor and is expected to be a major facilitator of new commercial business on the east side of the city.  In addition, the development will result in new infrastructure improvements to the I-55/Illinois 143 interchange.  
    It will also serve as the primary connector from Interstate 55 to the new planned Plummer Family Sports Park, a 78-acre state-of-the-art sports park that will be located adjacent to Pin Oak Plaza and include multiple soccer, baseball and softball fields.  
    Goding said that Pangea will be selling the property to Pin Oak Plaza, LLC., the development entity formed by Byron and Plocher for the project. Under the agreement the LLC will purchase 25 acres in the first phase and have an option to purchase the remaining 70 acres. Goding said he expects to close on the sale in the next several months after which time ground will be broken on the initial element. The developers have an anchor tenant for the first phase that cannot yet be identified due to a confidentiality agreement, he said.

Report says $1 billion in annual costs in state

    The title of a new report by the Illinois Policy Institute sums up its findings: “Workers’ compensation estimated to cost Illinois taxpayers nearly $1 billion per year.”
    And that number, according to the report, is on the low side.
    Local governments get hit the worst, eating $727 million of a total tab of $982 million. The Institute estimates that reforming the workers’ compensation system could save taxpayers nearly $300 million per year. The report uses sample data from local governments to estimate the annual cost of workers’ compensation to Illinois taxpayers. It also uses a formula to estimate the cost of workers’ compensation for public construction projects.  
    The Institute had previously studied workers’ compensation costs relative to blue collar jobs, said Michael Lucci, its vice president of policy, but this time wanted to see what it cost state and local government and, by extension, taxpayers.
    “There is a lot of discussion whether items like workers’ compensation are governmental budgetary issues,” Lucci said. “It most definitely is a budgetary issue. It’s a part of payroll, it’s a part of the budget. It’s layered into our taxes. It’s certainly a driver of taxpayer costs, especially for municipalities and especially for public works construction projects because it’s a part of the cost for a construction project and it’s a part of the cost for municipal workers. We have a lot of data showing how it is a big disincentive for private investors to do manufacturing investment and things like that in Illinois. Now we’re also revealing the fact that it is a cost to taxpayers as well.”
    According to the new findings in this report, the annual cost of workers’ compensation for school districts and park districts is $122 million per year and $102 million per year for various other units of local government. The estimated cost of workers’ compensation on public construction projects is $356 million per year.
    These costs, combined with the existing $402 million state, county and municipal governments pay in workers’ compensation costs, bring the total taxpayer cost of workers’ compensation to $982 million.
    The Institute recommends seven reforms, but Lucci says that the top three drivers of Illinois’ high workers’ compensation rates are the medical fee schedule, doctors prescribing opioids, and the state’s wage replacement rule.
    Lucci said most other states base their medical fees on Medicare’s payment schedule but not Illinois. Illinois bases its fee schedule on what health-care providers charge, which is vastly different from what they actually get paid.

    LEBANON — A unique franchise concept aimed at building discount cremation services across the United States is being launched in Southern Illinois.
p01 KalmerKalmer    Joe Kalmer, who owns Kalmer Memorial Services in Lebanon, Ill., and American Cremations of St. Louis, is going to launch Cypress Pointe, a franchise based on his St. Louis business model, which offers simple, affordable cremation services.
    “I’ve been in discussion with a couple of different organizations that are helping me start a franchise,” Kalmer said. “The idea is to go into the large cities of the nation, where there is a minimum of a million people and help young funeral directors in business that want to pursue this part of the industry.”
    Kalmer believes cremation as a sole enterprise is still an industry niche, since funeral homes that offer both services prefer the more profitable, traditional burial. That provides an opening for a professional discount provider of cremations, he said.
    American Cremations of St. Louis will be renamed Cypress Pointe as part of the changeover, which could happen as early as this summer.
    While the Lebanon, Ill., site primarily provides discount cremation services, the operation is more of a funeral home than what Kalmer has in St. Louis. In Lebanon, he has a chapel that seats 50 people, an embalming room and a garage. Still, 90 percent of his volume in Illinois is simple cremation.
    All cremations for both locations are done at the Illinois site.
    While funeral homes traditionally build their practice around community loyalty, a growing percentage of people are opting for cremation and simply “Google it” to find the most affordable choices.
    “They look up ‘cheap cremations’ and come up with a company that can provide what they need for under $1,000 and they go with them,” he said.
    The concept is to have these franchises set up so that search engines already have the Cypress Pointe names by the time the franchisees open their doors.
    “The idea is when they open their doors, hopefully the phone will start ringing,” he said.
    The name Cypress Pointe was chosen as the result of a brainstorming session with a marketer with whom Kalmer has been working, Falk-Harrison of St. Louis.
    “We came up with about 50 names,” he said. “We whittled it down to what was available as far as a domain name goes. And what sounded nice. We found out the cypress tree has a lot of funeral home and death-care connotations to it.
    “We’re (more than) six months into this but now were starting to gain a little traction with the building process. We’re hoping in three to four months we’ll be able to roll it out.”
    Kalmer has invested around $200,000 establishing the concept, which includes the marketing, website building, federal financial disclosure documents and operations manual.
    “It’s a process,” he said.
    In the end, he expects to charge around $50,000 for a franchise fee. Plan A for the franchisee would be to begin with an office and basic transport equipment but not his own crematory. Plan B would be for the franchisee to purchase a cremation machine — called a retort — and find a place to operate it, but only after building up a volume of business.
    Startups would have to pay someone to perform the cremations until they are more established, he said.


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    ALTON – Simmons Hanly Conroy, a law firm known for nationally handling asbestos, mass tort and complex litigation cases, has been listed by Chicago Lawyer among the largest law firms in Illinois.
    The firm ranked 67th of 200 Illinois law firms surveyed in the magazine’s annual Illinois Largest Law Firms Survey. The list positions the firm as one of the three largest law firms in the state with its primary location outside of the Chicago area.