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IBJ Mar15 Page 01 Image 0002The new hangar at St. Louis Regional Airport is allowing for large-scale jet aircraft restoration that could not previously be accommodated. (Photo courtesy West Star Aviation).

    BETHALTO — St. Louis Regional Airport soared to new highs in the past year and has no prospects for grounding in 2015.
    Its biggest tenant, West Star Aviation, is coming off a record year of revenue, during which its local hangar space was increased by 47,000 square feet, nearly doubling its workspace.
    One of Region’s biggest aeronautical projects, relocation of a utility runway, was largely completed after years of effort.
    And its largest commercial venture — redevelopment of the Wayside Estate subdivision, which has been years in the making — is close to taking off. A developer who has leased the property is working to convert the 46-acre site for multiple new businesses.

IBJ Mar15 Page 22 Image 0001An artist’s rendition of the Hofbrauhaus restaurant, proposed as part of the 33-acre development on the north side of Illinois Route 15 across from the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows.    BELLEVILLE — Before the first visitor hoists the first mug of beer, a number of hurdles have to be met for a development group to begin building a complex that envisions a Hofbrauhaus restaurant, hotel/convention center and four other dining establishments.
    But key progress has already been made among the major players, including the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, which runs the National Shrine of the Lady of the Snows and on whose property the 33-acre complex would be built along Illinois Route 15, across the highway from the heart of the shrine.
    The Oblates are working with the Kellers, a family of developers based in Effingham, as well as the city of Belleville, which annexed the Shrine property on Jan. 1, making it possible to move forward on an ambitious financing plan.
    Among other things the city would have to extend its enterprise zone to the site. It would have to create a business district sales tax — 1 percent of which would be collected on purchases made at the site’s businesses and returned to the developer. And, a tax increment financing district would have to be approved to allow generated property tax revenue to be funneled in part back to the developers.
    There would also be a rebate involving the city’s 5 percent-per-room hotel/motel tax.

    ALTON — Southwestern Illinois casinos have been hit hard in recent years by a combination of legislation and growing competition, according to Philippe Khouri, vice president and general manager of the Argosy Casino Alton. And, when an Illinois casino loses revenue, so does its host city. In the case of Alton, the city and the casino are working together to try to reverse the tide.
    The Alton operation’s gross annual revenue has fallen from a high of $125.4 million in 2007 to $64.3 million in 2013, the last full year currently available. The Casino Queen in East St. Louis has been victimized by a similar slide in revenues although not as great — from a high of $185.2 million in 2008 to $124.5 million in 2013.
    “The biggest impact has come from the introduction of the video gaming terminals in the state,” Khouri said. “The number of those is increasing steadily. We monitor how many there are in the neighboring area, their win per unit and how many are being added. The numbers are substantial and it certainly has affected us pretty significantly.”
    Khouri has only been with the Argosy for six months but has been with Argosy’s parent company Penn National Gaming for almost three years and was with Harrah’s in Joliet, Ill., prior to that. He said that the border casinos also took a substantial hit in 2008 after the smoking ban, imposed by the state, took effect.

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Special to the Illinois Business Journal

Mardi Gras BallAttendees check out the silent auction baskets Feb 17 at the American Cancer Society's 45th Annual Mardi Gras Ball, which was presented by Simmons Hanly Conroy, and raised over $370,000 for the society.    ALTON – The American Cancer Society’s 45th Annual Mardi Gras Ball, hosted by John Simmons and the law firm Simmons Hanly Conroy, LLC, has raised a record-breaking amount of $372,000 for the society.  The amount is the most in the 45 year history of the event, which took place Feb. 17 at the Gateway Convention Center in Collinsville, Ill., and welcomed nearly 800 people.

  “It was very inspirational to see people from all parts of our community fight back against cancer,” said Brett Schuette, Senior Market Manager for the American Cancer Society.  “Together, we celebrated those surviving cancer, remembered loved ones lost too soon, and took action to finish the fight once and for all.”

    This was the first year that John Simmons and the firm served as host and presenting sponsor of the ball, which was masquerade and black tie optional.

    “It was an honor to partner with the American Cancer Society as host of its annual Mardi Gras Ball and support the organization in its important mission to eradicate cancer,” said Simmons. “As a law firm that represents people who’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by asbestos-exposure, we understand the devastating effects a cancer diagnosis has on our loved ones, families and communities and look forward to the day when there is a cure.”

    Simmons Hanly Conroy is one of the nation’s largest mass tort law firms and a leading voice for victims of mesothelioma and asbestos exposure. The firm’s passion for improving the lives of asbestos cancer victims and their families extends outside the courtroom with the support of charitable activities related to cancer research. Since 1999, the firm has donated over $20 million to cancer research.

    The money raised by the Mardi Gras ball was given through a combination of corporate sponsorships, private donations, tickets to the event and proceeds from the live and silent auctions. In addition, volunteers from the firm, Alton Little Theatre, and the local chapter of the American Cancer Society donated countless hours to plan and organize the event.

    “I would like to especially recognize all the volunteers for the time they gave to plan and organize this year’s ball,” Simmons said. “It’s because of their hard work over many months that the event was such a spectacular success.”
    Simmons said he would also like to thank the following businesses for their financial leadership of the ball: Alton Steel, Inc.; Becker, Schroader & Chapman, P.C.; First Clover Leaf Bank; Gori Julian & Associates, P.C.; Helkamp Construction, Co.; PolhmanUSA; Scott Credit Union; Stratos Legal; St. Anthony’s Health Center; and The Tedrick Group.
    For more information, please contact the American Cancer Society office at (618) 288-2320 option 3 or visit www.acsMardiGrasBall.com.

About the American Cancer Society

    The American Cancer Society combines an unyielding passion with nearly a century of experience to save lives and end suffering from cancer. As a global grassroots force with more than 100,000 volunteers in Illinois and millions elsewhere, we fight for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. We save lives by helping people stay well, by helping people get well, by finding cures and by fighting back. As the nation’s largest non-governmental investor in cancer research, we turn what we know about cancer into what we do. As a result, more than 11 million people in America who have had cancer, and countless more who have avoided it, will be celebrating birthdays this year. To learn more or get help, call us any time at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.

About Simmons Hanly Conroy, LLC

   Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC is one of the nation’s largest mass tort law firms and a leading voice for victims of mesothelioma and asbestos exposure. The firm’s attorneys have recovered more than $4 billion in verdicts and settlements for individuals in asbestos-related litigation, including the largest-ever U.S. verdict ($250 million) for a single plaintiff. The firm also represents plaintiffs nationwide in pharmaceutical, consumer protection, environmental and personal injury cases, as well as small and mid-size corporations, inventors and entrepreneurs in matters involving intellectual property infringement and business litigation. Offices are located in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Alton, Ill. Read more at www.simmonsfirm.com.