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MEDP explains their business plan to Rotary

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Helped over 17 businesses in 2011 with funding

The Benld Area Rotary met for a regular luncheon this week and was enlightened by Shari Albrecht. Albrecht informed the Rotary of different plans in store by MEDP to help grow business in Macoupin County.

“Despite our economy, 2011 was a productive year for Macoupin County,” Albrecht started, “Our businesses met the challenges that the economy brought and we had quite a few businesses upgrade their facilities and services which in turn added jobs.”

Some of the businesses Albrecht spoke of that expanded were Carmak, Madison Communications, Carlinville Area Hospital, and TDS Transport. With the good and the bad, Macoupin County also lost a few old friends like H&H Construction in Carlinville.

2011 was also a productive year for MEDP. According to Albrecht, the team was able to work with the City of Carlinville to design the first ever business park. “We plan to move to other parts of the county and create similar partnerships,” Albrecht explained. Along with the park, MEDP was also able to make an impact with the Build Macoupin County as they received $75,000 with state funding.

MEDP was to assist small business owners with energy efficient upgrades with the state funding. They were able to assist 17 small business owners and the projects totaled over $188,000. In addition, it provided work for local contractors.

Last year MEDP held quarterly workshops to emphasize on marketing. The BenGil Post was the main partner as The BenGil Post’s sister site is launching in early April. Shop BenGil will be an online virtual mall where consumers will be able to shop their favorite stores 24 hours a day. The stores included will be any brick and mortar store in Benld or Gillespie as well as any at-home business.

In the last six weeks, MEDP was able to work with an architectural firm out of Springfield from the help of a $7,000 grant. The firm is working on a street scape plan for Central Avenue which will be unveiled by the end of the summer. This project has been managed by both Build Benld and MEDP.

Now for the 2012, MEDP is focusing on business development and bringing entrepreneurship to Macoupin County. “Our goal this year is to bring business to Macoupin County,” Albrecht stated. Albrecht unveiled the new business development program which is intended to provide services for businesses at all stages whether the business is currently getting on their feet, trying to find customers, replacing the business strategy, or even moving to the business district in their own city.

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The core services MEDP will offer include business marketing, business district development, networking, access to capital, tax increment financing, and education. All services are provided to businesses whether they are a member of MEDP or not.

Business start-up by MEDP is encouraging businesses to start off on the right track. The entrepreneur comes to Shari Albrecht or a banker and explains their business idea. The group will then tweak the plan and make sure it is perfected before applying for loans. “We want to get their business up and going and eventually into store fronts,” Courtney Wood, assistant, explained.

For entrepreneurs that do not know where to get started, they join Macoupin Made which is another program under MEDP conducted by Wood and Albrecht. It is cooperative advertising, print advertising, facebook advertising, and events so business owners can sell their products. Along with all that, the business becomes ranked at the bronze level with MEDP.

“So often I get a phone call that someone wants to open a business,” Albrecht explained, “Mentoring and business startup are the most important things for success for these individuals.”  Albrecht went on to say that the business has to have a business plan as well as marketing ideas. MEDP will help get the entrepreneur on the right foot with the tough challenge with the free services they offer.

After the startup, MEDP stresses the importance of staying on the right track to success. “We will never leave them,” Albrecht explained, “We help them face the challenges of emerging their business.” The pair went on to explain the importance of getting online and having an ecommerce website which is something Shop BenGil will bring to the community.

“We are very excited to be working with TJ Allan and his staff to bring Shop BenGil to the community,” Albrecht stated, “It is going to be groundbreaking! There is no community in the State of Illinois that has this feature.” Consumers will be able to shop their local businesses online just like they shop on Amazon or eBay. The products will be Macoupin made.

New this year for MEDP, they have the ability to map downtown business districts. “Thanks to the new technology and Courtney’s talent, we can map the downtowns and include who owns which business as well as include a phone number or email address to contact the owner.” The new program also indicates which buildings are vacant and available to rent.

This helps MEDP find a ‘home’ for a new business as they can find the perfect building for whatever the business might be. As of March, the City of Staunton is already complete and MEDP is working on the downtown of Build, Gillespie, and Carlinville. MEDP will essentially serve as a resource to help get store fronts occupied and growing.

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In June, MEDP will have their second annual dinner. The caterer will, of course, be local. The event will be on June 14th and is a great time to network with business leaders and community leaders. “Also, it is the only fundraiser for MEDP throughout the entire year,” Albrecht closed.

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School board deals with personnel issues during special meeting

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Stephanie Bray

Meeting in special session Monday night, members of the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education accepted “with regrets” the resignation for purposes of retirement of Stephanie Bray, one of the district’s three technology integration specialists, effective June 4.

The board called a special session to deal with the apparently unexpected resignation before the board’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting later this month. However, board members tabled action on approving a revised job description for the Student Information System/Data Integration Specialist position, pending further discussion.

The board also tabled action on posting the newly created vacancy and tabled posting a district-level secretary’s position.

In February of 2022, the board accepted “with regrets” Bray’s announcement of her retirement “no later than the end of the 2025-26 school year.” There was no indication of why Bray moved her retirement date up by two years.

On a motion by Weye Schmidt, seconded by Amanda Ross, the board voted unanimously to accept Bray’s resignation. The action followed a 50-minute executive session to discuss personnel issues behind closed doors. The public portion of the meeting lasted less than 10 minutes.

In other action, the board voted to renew the district’s One Room contract to offer a remotely taught Spanish class to fulfill the district’s foreign language requirement for the 2024-25 school year. This will be the second year an off-site teacher will teach foreign language at GHS, using remote communication technology. Supt. Shane Owsley said the district had no applications for the vacant teaching position last year. This year, an applicant from Brazil explored the possibility of teaching in Gillespie but ultimately accepted a tutoring position at Greenville University. Owsley said hiring the applicant could have become cumbersome because she was not yet certificated to teach high school Spanish. He said he recently changed the job description from Spanish to foreign language to expand the pool of potential applicants.

In other personnel action, the board approved the maternity leave request of Amber Allan, BenGil Elementary physical education teacher, effective Aug. 28 through Jan. 20.

In separate actions, the board accepted Nathan Henrichs resignation as Gillespie High School freshman football coach, posted the position as vacant, and appointed Henrichs as a varsity assistant football coach. The board also voted unanimously to appoint Alex Jasper as an assistant freshman football coach. The board unanimously accepted Wayne Ireland’s resignation as a volunteer assistant football coach, and voted unanimously to appoint Jarrod Herron and hire Trenton Cleveland as volunteer assistant football coaches.

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The board voted unanimously to hire Michael Rodriguez as a high school volunteer assistant women’s basketball coach.

On a motion by Schmidt, seconded by Kelli Vesper, the board hired Alexis Ollis as a head cook and kitchen staff member, pending documentation of certification and a background check. The board also Brittany Hughes as a district kitchen staff worker, pending documentation of certification and background check.

On a motion by Vesper, the board voted unanimously to post a vacancy for a one-on-one paraprofessional aide.

Board members voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Jessica Kelly as a middle school assistant track and field coach and voted unanimously to hire Jay Weber as the high school head track and field coach.

The regular monthly meeting of the board is set for 6 p.m., Monday, June 24, at the district’s administrative office.

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Americana festival set for July 4 at Benld Park

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Jess Barker, The Lodge Brothers, and The New Prairie Drifters are set to take the stage at Benld City Park on Thursday, July 4 as part of the Americana Festival.

The music festival intends to celebrate the birthday and spirit of America with thriving local culture of music, food, and art. It is scheduled to begin at 12 noon and end at 6 pm.

Food will be available for purchase from The Barracks American Table, a new Gillespie restaurant, and skincare products will be available from Nature’s Bliss, a Benld gift shop.

The park is located at 305 North Main Street in Benld. Admission is free.

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Macoupin County Fair underway until Sunday

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Rides, tents, food trucks, music, animals, and plenty of other offerings fill the grounds at the Macoupin County Fair for the 172nd year. The fair is held June 4 through June 9 at the Macoupin County Fairground north of Carlinville.

The oldest county fair in Illinois, the Macoupin County Fair welcomes thousands of guests to the area and unites agriculture, family, and community. The fair continues through Sunday with highlights every evening.

The fair also meets the needs of families on a budget, for just $10 per person you get parking and all-access to the carnival rides. The cost-friendly fun draws in visitors and locals who get to embrace the county’s namesakes.

Tracy Lawrence and Walker Montgomery are set to take the stage Thursday evening, June 6, at 7:30pm. Friday evening features the tractor and truck pull, and Saturday evening is the crowd-favorite demolition derby.

The fair opens every morning at 8am and closes at 12 midnight. For a full list of schedule of events or to pre-pay for entry, visit the fair’s website here.

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