“The biggest obstacle is just getting our name out there and proving to the big people that we are serious” — Tim Kuebrich
By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
A new logistics park in Godfrey is slowly picking up steam in its quest to be a bigger player in transportation and freight movement in Southwestern Illinois.
Owner Tim Kuebrich, though, wasn’t thinking about railroads, trucks and such when he got into the business via a circuitous route that took him from Jerseyville to St. Louis to Saudi Arabia to Godfrey. Now, though, it appears he’s ready to stay put.
His operation, Lake Drive Logistics, is beginning to get noticed, and Kuebrich, a machinist by trade, said he’s learned a lot under fire.
“You go to the school of hard knocks,” he said. “Ask a lot of questions, talk to a lot of people. I’ve stumbled through it, but I learned a lot in the last three years. It’s been a different world for us, but it’s been good.”
The Lake Drive Logistics campus is largely hidden in acreage off Pearl Street in the heart of Godfrey, part of the old Mead Packaging facilities that once employed more than 200 people.
“We’ve got 45 acres and a 71,000-square-foot warehouse, of which around 10,000 square feet is sectioned off for a machine shop,” he said. A large, manmade lake sits on the property, which is ripe for development because of the two railroads that serve the corridor alongside it.
Kuebrich, 53, acquired the property in 2014 and has spent the ensuing time cleaning up the property, spending hundreds of thousands on repairs, working on contracts with customers and building relationships with local officials and the transportation industry.
“The biggest (obstacle) is just getting our name out there and proving to the big people that we are serious and that we can do it,” he said.
Kuebrich went to Ranken Technical College to become a machinist before landing a 13-year stay with McDonnell-Douglas Corp. in St. Louis. He spent much of that time building jigs and fixtures that held the wings off the F-15 jet for repairs. The last three years of that career, 1993 to 1996, were spent in Saudi Arabia, where the company sent him to work on the same planes used by that country.
“Glad I went. Glad I’m not there now. I had my entire family with me – my wife and two children. Great experience for all of us. It was after the Gulf War but before (radicals) started targeting civilians,” he said. “The general public in Saudi Arabia is just like you and I are and just as nice as can be. They are just everyday people. There’s good people in this world all over.”
He came back to the states — and to new opportunity. A-1 Machine Shop, in Jerseyville, where he had worked as a co-op student in high school, came up for sale because of the owner’s pending retirement.
By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
LEBANON — When George Kriss suggested to the students of his management information systems class that they plan out the idea of an Active Learning Center on the McKendree University campus, he was hoping to make the best of a progressive, yet fun assignment.
He underestimated the results, to say the least.
The concept the students came back with was so impressive that it received the approval of the university president, led to the actual creation of the center and has become so successful that a larger project is in the works.
And all because Kriss was scrambling for class ideas at the beginning.
“I actually found out I was teaching this class about 12 hours before I started. I didn’t even have a syllabus to go off of,” he recalled. “I remembered the best classes I ever had were ones that engaged you.”
He thought back on an earlier conversation with President Dr. James Dennis, who had a vision of one day having a business room on campus where students “could go, see some stock tickers, and some flash,” Kriss said. “I thought that was great, but at McKendree every space is versatile and adaptable and open to everybody. I tasked the class with a couple of different projects.”
Students jumped on the idea, went around campus to find the best space, took surveys, and narrowed down the options. They interviewed all kinds of people — students, professors, others — on what they’d like to see done. The space chosen was an outdated, little-used fitness center in New Residence Hall West. It was about the size of a very large classroom.
The idea was to form a center where students and campus groups of all varieties could collaborate in a single space. Kriss had assigned two project managers and three team leads, among other students, focusing on technical, design and marketing and research components.
Students devoted nine weeks to the project this past spring.
One of those who rose to the occasion, and subsequently worked a lot of overnight hours on the effort, was Robert Watkins, a business administration major from Chicago and one of the project managers.
“We looked at different universities across the country to get some inspiration from them. But then we realized it was going to be a unique situation, and everybody was going to have to be able to use this,” he said.
By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
All roads would lead to Southwestern Illinois under a contemplated marketing campaign that would highlight two of the best-known highways in these parts — Route 66 and the Great River Road.
State and local tourism officials are exploring ways to promote two of the region’s greatest assets now that the Alton Regional Convention Bureau territory is widening to take in Edwardsville and Macoupin County.
The local CVB was certified to take in Edwardsville back in July. It will officially expand north into Macoupin County sometime in the coming year. Until now, it had encompassed northern Madison County and Jersey and Calhoun counties.
The director of the Illinois Office of Tourism sees the move as a natural meshing of the interests of the wider region.
“This is kind of where the Mother Road meets the River Road,” Cory Jobe said, of U.S. Route 66, the storied highway that runs from Chicago to Santa Monica, Calif., passing through Macoupin and Madison counties along the way.
“Route 66 is state tourism’s most popular international selling point by far,” he said. “We all think it’s been used and reused, but people still want that ‘real America.’ There is still that love affair with this route.”
Jobe believes the state has the most authentic Route 66 roadside attractions of any state. It is a national scenic byway, one of seven that includes the Great River Road between Alton and Grafton in Illinois. And it is hugely popular with the European and Asian markets.
Jobe said he’ll be in good position to help the greater Alton area market the attractions. His agency promotes in 14 national markets and five international markets. China and Mexico are next on the list.
The Alton CVB is pursuing a grant, partnering with the state on a strategy that could start to come together in the next few months, although it might be a while before the particulars are in place, said Brett Stawar, president of the Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“There’s going to be a rebrand, we’re going to hit a reset on this organization in the next couple of years. We just picked up Macoupin County, so now we have Macoupin, most of Madison and Jersey and Calhoun counties. Our primarily focus is going to be the Mother Road and the River Road and where they meet. Nowhere else in the country do you have such a great thing. You’ve got a World Heritage Site at Monks Mound, you’ve got the largest state park in Illinois to the north (Pere Marquette). You’ve got the 66 traveler experiences coming through Livingston, Staunton and Edwardsville. And you’ve got history. You can tie in Lincoln.”
The state has two outside marketing agencies to handle PR efforts around the world. Ninety percent of travel is still booked through a traditional travel service or tour operator, Jobe said.
It all translates to dollars for Illinois — and the local economy.
“I’m on the national board of the U.S. Travel Association. We just issued a new report, “America’s Unsung Hero of Job Creation.” The travel and tourism industry is the seventh-largest employer in the country,” he said.
Some 20,000 tourism jobs were created in Illinois in just the past two years. Tourism is the third-largest industry in the state, Jobe said, stressing that it is not just a Chicago phenomenon.
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