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Al-Ortbals-mugOrtbals    One day in early 2000, Kerry Smith called me at my office at the Southwestern Illinois Development Authority. I had known Kerry as a reporter who worked briefly at The Telegraph in Alton, calling periodically for interviews on projects I was working on at SWIDA.
   But this day she had a very different question - what did I think of the idea to start a business publication focusing on Southwestern Illinois? The thought had never occurred to me but, when I heard it, it struck me like one of those vegetable drink commercials. “I could’ve had a V-8!” I told her I thought it was a terrific idea.
   I had been in economic development in Southwestern Illinois for 15 years at that point, having emigrated from the City of St. Louis. Moving to Illinois from Missouri, I was struck by several significant differences between the two sides of the river. One of these was the fragmentation of Southwestern Illinois.
   Unlike Metro West, Metro East was broken into cities and towns that were separated from one another both by geography and communication. Communities had their hometown newspapers but there was no vehicle by which businesses stretching from Godfrey down to Waterloo could communicate with one another. And there was no publication that spoke with the business community and for the business community of Southwestern Illinois.
   Another fact that struck me was the isolation of Metro East from Metro West. As a born and bred Missourian, I had never thought twice about the Illinois side of the river. I was not alone in that regard. The 600,000 people and 30,000 businesses of Southwestern Illinois were virtually invisible to nearly two-thirds of the metropolis.
   Perhaps it took an outsider like Kerry Smith to grasp the huge void that these two factors created. Or, maybe entrepreneurs simply see the world differently from others. Regardless, Kerry went on to launch the Illinois Business Journal later that year and it’s been a resounding success. The IBJ has done a wonderful job of filling the void that she had so astutely identified. And it’s been well supported by the businesses and organizations of Southwestern Illinois and beyond.
   Thirteen years later, Kerry has decided to launch a new endeavor. But be assured that the Illinois Business Journal will be in good hands. As I assume the role of president and publisher, I am happy and proud to announce the addition of Dennis Grubaugh as editor.
   Dennis Grubaugh has a long and distinguished career in journalism. He worked as a reporter and editor for a dozen years in the area’s Suburban Journals chain and has more than 30 years of newspaper management experience in Southwestern Illinois. He has been at The Telegraph in Alton since 1991 and city editor since 2001, managing the journalist staff, planning coverage, helping coordinate business news and penning stories and editorials.
   Dennis has been honored with several awards, most notably the 2013 Bob Hardy Media Award for career achievement in journalism. I am excited that he will be bringing all of that knowledge and experience to the Illinois Business Journal.
   While you can expect the IBJ to continue to bring you the strong journalism for which it has become noted, with new blood comes new ideas, new life and new vitality.
   The success of the IBJ hasn’t been solely due to Kerry and me and our family of talented freelancers, but to the fact that the business community of Southwestern Illinois embraced the paper as its own, took pride in its accomplishments and supported its publication though economic booms and busts.
   Much has happened since the first issue of the IBJ rolled off the presses in October 2000. The communities of Southwestern Illinois are not as isolated as they were, and Metro East is not as distant from Metro West as it was. The IBJ has played a role in that.
   Communication is the tie that binds, and we will continue to supply the laces.
   So thank you, Southwestern Illinois, for 13 successful years. With the continued support of Southwestern Illinois businesses, we look forward to many more years to come.
   Alan J. Ortbals is vice president and chief operating officer of the Illinois Business Journal. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..