ILLINOIS
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Winter 2006-07 Above Normal But Cool April Expected
How To Receive Your Illinois Tax Refund Within One Week

Entrepreneurship Education Needed In Schools
Electric Co-op Director Receives National Biodiesel Award
Illinois Sustainable Living and Wellness Expo April 13-14
Electric Co-ops Purchase Investor-Owned Utility Territory
Durbin Says Rural Areas Need Broadband For Economic Development

Winter 2006-07 Above Normal But Cool April Expected

Despite the February arctic chill that caught most meteorologists by surprise, the winter of 2006-2007 will go down as warmer than normal. During December thru February total heating degree days were 150 to 300 below average across Illinois. This translates to lower than normal amounts of energy usage for heating. Average temperatures were between 1 and 4 degrees above normal for the winter season.

As expected, the El Nino that persisted during December and January was the main reason for the overall milder winter. However, the unexpected rapid weakening of this El Nino led to the unpredicted much colder February.

Over the last couple months, sea surface temperatures across the equatorial Pacific have begun a cooling trend. As a result, the moderate El Nino that had been in place has weakened significantly. In April temperatures are expected to be somewhat cooler than average across portions of the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley, Northeast and Southeast. These April cool spells will likely conclude the heating season with a month that sees a slightly higher than normal amount of heating degree days.

Source: EJS Weather, Newton, Ill., go to www.ejsweather.com or call 618-783-3040.

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How To Receive Your Illinois Tax Refund Within One Week

Nearly 300,000 Illinois taxpayers have already simplified their lives this year by filing their state taxes electronically, including more than 21,000 who used the department’s free online WebFile program.

“Two out of three taxpayers will get a state tax refund,” said Revenue Director Brian Hamer. “The easiest and fastest way for a taxpayer to get that refund is by filing electronically. It requires no special software, and taxpayers who try it tell us they are pleased at how easy it is to use.”

Taxpayers who file their tax returns electronically and have their refunds direct deposited into their bank accounts will see
their refunds in a week. Besides fast refunds, taxpayers who file electronically will make fewer mistakes that delay refunds, will get a confirmation number that proves that they filed, and can enjoy the convenience of filing from home.

Taxpayers can get more information on electronic filing by visiting www.tax.illinois.gov.

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Entrepreneurship Education Needed In Schools

Entrepreneurship is a hot topic these days. We are particularly encouraged by the number of programs available to high school and college students. The State of Iowa Department of Education has Entrepreneurial Education Consultants who work with businesses, students and educators to promote awareness of the possibilities students can have in starting their own business. The state entrepreneurship program has created a task force in the last year to find ways to offer more resources to potential business owners and students.

“We many, many times raise students to be able to work for somebody, but they don’t honestly look at the mindset that they could create their own business and be an entrepreneur,” said Janet Woodruff, an Entrepreneurial Education Consultant in Iowa. “Some of the students are so creative and so innovative, especially with technology. There are so many things students can do.”

One key point, states Woodruff is that “entrepreneurs help create jobs and stimulate the state’s economy.”

Classes across the state of Iowa are offered to help build the foundation of what it takes to be successful as an entrepreneur. More and more high schools are adding entrepreneurship classes to their curriculum.

To see what your state and others are doing to promote entrepreneurship, visit the Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education Web site at www.entre-ed.org. If you click on the “Take It On” link, you can then select your state and see programs and activities that are going on in your state.

Source: Jack Schultz, CEO of Boomtown Institute and Agracel Inc. agurban@boomtowninstitute.com, 217-342-3000, www.boomtowninstitute.com

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Electric Co-op Director Receives National Biodiesel Award

Jim Gay, soybean producer from Rockport and a director for Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative, received the 2007 National Biodiesel Board’s Pioneer Award in San Antonio, Texas at the Fourth Annual National Biodiesel Conference. The award honors individuals who served as visionary leaders in establishing the framework for the biodiesel industry.

Gay was recognized for his long-time support of the biodiesel industry, which began in 1992 when he served as the organization’s original vice-president. Gay went on to become president, and served in that capacity for several years before his retirement from the organization.

During his acceptance comments, Gay said he was amazed at how far the industry has come in such a short time. “You would all be surprised about what the first meeting looked like – it consisted of a few soybean farmers sitting around a table discussing the possibilities.”

“I would like to congratulate Jim and thank him for his leadership and vision,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board. “His determination and persistence to get biodiesel to the marketplace exemplifies the true pioneer spirit, and for that, we are all extremely grateful to him.”

Gay is also a leader at a pioneering electric cooperative. Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative is the first electric distribution co-op in the nation to build and operate a wind turbine. The turbine is also the first in western Illinois, where some of the best wind resources in the state are located.

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Illinois Sustainable Living and Wellness Expo April 13-14

Join more than 100 exhibitors and 30 presenters at the Illinois Wesleyan University Shirk Center in Bloomington to learn about the many aspects of sustainability and wellness. Other activities include a fuel-efficient vehicles demonstration, children’s carnival, labyrinth walks, free massages and organic food. The event is free and open to the public. The expo is open Friday, April 13 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday, April 14 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information go to http://ecologyactioncenter.org/islwe2/index.html.


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Electric Co-ops Purchase Investor-Owned Utility Territory

Jo-Carroll Energy, headquartered in Elizabeth, Ill., has completed its acquisition of electric and natural gas distribution assets from Interstate Power and Light Co., an Alliant Energy company. The transaction includes all former IP&L service areas in Carroll, Jo- Daviess and Whiteside counties. Rock County Electric Cooperative Association, headquartered in Janesville, Wisc., also purchased South Beloit’s gas and electric utility, formerly owned by Alliant Energy.

The sale process started in 2005 when Alliant Energy decided to sell its Illinois-based utility business.

“This is an exciting time for the co-op and our new members,” said Jo-Carroll Energy President and CEO Michael Hastings. “The acquisition will mean former IP&L customers will be able to participate, vote and even serve on the Jo-Carroll Energy board,” he said.

Jo-Carroll Energy will now serve 20,000 members with electricity and 5,500 with natural gas. Rock County Electric will add 10,000 members to its existing 6,000 membership.

“Basically, we will be tripling in size,” Hastings said. The move will allow Jo-Carroll Energy to carry on its mission of serving its members at the lowest cost, he said.

Shane Larson, CEO for Rock County Electric, said, “As a cooperative, we exist to provide reliable service at cost-of-service rates for our members and our members only—not far off shareholders. With the additional meters, the cooperative’s fixed costs are spread over more accounts, thus helping keep costs down for all of our members.”

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Durbin Says Rural Areas Need Broadband For Economic Development

U. S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) hosted a Regional Broadband Summit in central Illinois to help raise awareness of broadband as a regional economic development tool. Durbin says a national policy is needed to accelerate the deployment of broad-band Internet service to rural areas.

The summit was an opportunity for representatives from the business, education, healthcare and network provider sectors of central Illinois to share broadband successes, identify needs and help chart a collaborative course for a connected Illinois. Durbin also discussed legislation he intends to introduce to encourage the rapid deployment of high-quality, affordable broadband service, especially in rural areas.

“Broadband is an essential com­ponent of our lives, at work and at home. It has become an essential ser­vice like water, gas and electricity,” said Durbin. “Yet, for too many people living in small communities today, broadband access is still not a reality.”

Durbin pointed to a consortium of schools, universities, hospitals, economic development units, elected leaders and Internet service providers that have come together in southern Illinois to form an entity, Connect SI. “Connect
SI is the type of public-private partnership that can break through the significant proprietary concerns that providers
have about sharing their network resources in order to build detailed maps important to build out,” Durbin said.

A recent study estimated the widespread adoption of basic broadband could add $500 billion to the U.S. economy and create 1.2 million new jobs per year. The study also projected 1.2 million jobs could be created if next generation broadband technology were rapidly deployed.

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