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March 16, 2018



Rural Partners Annual Meeting March 7, 2018

At the Rural Partners annual meeting, members approved the 2017 financial statements and the 2018 budget, and elected board members and officers. Molly Hammond, Carol Jo Fritts, Steve Kline, Valerie Ross, Norm Walzer and Kim Watson were elected to the board. Officers elected include Molly Hammond, Chair; Laura Hepp Kessel, Vice-Chair; Jerry Townsend, Treasurer; Carol Jo Fritts, Assistant Treasurer; Pat Gleason, Secretary; and Anne Silvis, Assistant Secretary. All members of Rural Partners are invited to board meetings. The July 10 meeting should be of particular interest, as the meeting will be hosted by Carol Jo Fritts and include visits to development sites in Cumberland County. In 2017, membership meetings included a visit to the Trefzger’s Bakery redevelopment project in Peoria Heights, and a meeting hosted by SIU School of Medicine to discuss rural health issues. Rep. Andy Manar attended the meeting at SIU School of Medicine and presented information about school funding reform. For more information, visit



Illinois start-up Amber Agriculture could revolutionize grain bin storage by decreasing spoilage, increasing yield, and protecting our food supply. Grain spoilage can occur a number of ways—through insect or rodent infestations or breeches in containing structures, for example. Amber Ag co-founders Lucas Frye (ACES ’15) and Joseph Varikooty, who studied electrical and computer engineering at Illinois, are concerned with spoilage due to moisture. Recognizing the impact their technology could have globally, they began developing a sensor that can measure the amount of moisture in a grain bin, and deliver those readings to a farmer remotely. Not only will a farmer be able to monitor their grain supply more accurately and quickly with this device, it is also a safer approach to interacting with the grain inside the bin.



International Trade – It’s Easy When You Know How

Presented by: Kathie Cravens, International Trade Specialist, Illinois Small Business Development Center

Noon-1PM, Thursday, April 12, 2018

Join us for a free webinar, where local officials and economic development professionals will learn about what they can do to assist small business expansion into the international market, international trade opportunities in Illinois, and business retention.

Kathie Cravens, CGBP, MIEx, a seasoned international trade specialist with years of exporting experience, has traveled and lived abroad, worked closely with numerous international dealers and distributors, and has attended several international trade shows. She has advised small to medium sized companies on their export practices and has been directly involved with U.S. exporting. She provides research support for new markets and products and referral assistance for export related activities, licensing, certification, legal and financial consultation, logistics and customs issues.

Cravens was owner of BritAm International, an export management company, advising small to medium sized companies on the expertise of exporting. Before accepting her new position as international trade specialist for the September 2013 opening of the new International Trade Center (ITC) in Champaign, she was employed at the GSI Group as an international logistics specialist, exporting product from Taylorville and Assumption to every continent of the world. REGISTER HERE




Americans who hit the trails to ski, bike or hike aren’t just working up a sweat; they’re also generating economic activity. Outdoor recreation accounted for 2.0 percent of the U.S. economy, or $373.7 billion, in 2016, according to prototype statistics for the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Outdoor activities centered on motorized vehicles, including RVs and motorcycles, stand out from the pack, accounting for $59.4 billion of gross output in 2016, more than half of it attributed to RVs. Boating and fishing together represented $38.2 billion in gross output; hunting, shooting and trapping accounted for $15.4 billion. You can find the news release and data tables on’s Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account page, along with background material and frequently asked questions.




April 12, 2018 (Webinar) - International Trade and Small Business Development in Illinois

May 3, 2018 (Webinar) - Open Meetings Act

June 14, 2018 (Webinar) - Age-Friendly Communities and Senior Bullying

June 27, 2018 - Central Illinois Volunteerism Conference