Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

December 10, 2012

Luncheon speakers spotlight local developments

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — The Effingham County Chamber of Commerce used last week’s First Friday luncheon to spotlight the positive developments taking place in the county.

    Chamber president Norma Lansing said it was a good time to update luncheon attendees about projects taking place throughout the county.

    “There are so many great things going on in the county,” Lansing said. “But we don’t always get to hear about them.

    “First Friday just gave us an opportunity to showcase them,” she added.

    Speakers included Ed Hoopingarner from the Effingham County economic development advisory committee, Dieterich Village Clerk Britny Gipson, Teutopolis businessman Rick Siemer,  Altamont Unit 10 school district Superintendent Jeff Fritchtnitch, and Helen Matthes Library Director Amanda McKay.

    Hoopingarner outlined the county’s new revolving loan program. The county is using $99,000 in seed money from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to set up the program.

    “We had nothing to entice business with,” Hoopingarner said, adding that any business within the county can apply for a loan through the program. Money paid back to the county is put into a pot from which other businesses can draw, providing the “revolving” nature of the loan program.

    Hoopingarner said applicants must show that each $15,000 loaned will lead to either a new job being created or an existing one retained.

    Dieterich’s Gipson outlined a number of community projects in her town, including the development of a new park in the North Pointe subdivision. Gipson said village officials are working with a landscaper and a local Boy Scout to ensure the new park will have all the trees needed for the annual fifth grade leaf project.

    Other projects, Gipson said, include a new sewer lagoon and cell phone tower, as well as additions to the EJ Water office and North Pointe subdivision.

    Teutopolis’ Siemer, CEO of Siemer Milling, said the Wooden Shoe Development investment program would soon bear fruit.

    “There will be substantial activity in the near future,” Siemer said.

    Some of that activity, Siemer said, includes expansion of Jansen Computers into an old liquor store at the four-way stop in downtown Teutopolis.

    Siemer noted the expansion of Runde Clinic and the statewide award that his own company received recently.

    Altamont’s Fritchtnitch talked about the increasing digital footprint in the Unit 10 school district. Not only do all high school students use laptop computers, but middle school students began doing so this fall.

    “We’ve cut our paper usage by more than half,” Fritchtnitch said. “Assignments are turned in and graded electronically.”

    Fritchtnitch said technology instructors Charlie Niehaus and Tim Torbeck have done a great job in facilitating the transition for students and staff alike. He added that student Internet usage is strictly monitored through use of a firewall.

    “That’s what made our parents at ease,” he said.

    Fritchtnitch said the school district is only one component of a successful community, however. A series of community planning sessions last fall led to the development of several goals, including development of the Interstate 70 interchange, establishment of a Parks and Recreation program, incentive for entrepreneurs, entertainment and youth programs.

    Finally, the library’s McKay talked about the library’s pending move into the old Fifth Third Bank building on North Third Street in Effingham.

    “We’re excited about the location,” she said. “Keeping a downtown location was important.”

    McKay said the new library will be more than double the size of the current library.

    “We’ve been bursting at the seams,” she said.

    McKay said architects are working on renovation details. She said the project should begin sometime next year.

    Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com