Casino leads economic development in new year

Dec. 31—Economic development projects haven't really slowed down in the area since the coronavirus pandemic.

A lot of that has to do with the Golden Nugget Danville Casino, Carle, FedEx, Viscofan and other projects, said Vermilion Advantage CEO Tim Dudley.

"That's just going to be crazy," Dudley said about when the casino opens next spring.

A few weeks ago, Jimmy Wilmot, vice president of gaming with Wilmorite Management Group, LLC, reported there was still a lot to do with the casino, but construction is coming along nicely and is on schedule.

He had also reported last month, "Everything is still on time for our construction schedule and we have been impressed with the level of craftsmanship coming out of the local and regional trades."

The casino building was enclosed by Thanksgiving for winter construction.

"We are still preparing for a spring 2023 opening and have yet to set a hard date, but it will be as soon as possible. We have not started doing press hard hat tours," according to Wilmot. "From an operating standpoint, we have started putting together our senior leadership and are excited to say we are up to five operating employees, including General Manager, Operations, Finance, HR, and IT department heads."

The human resources director moved into an office at Danville Area Community College this month.

Dudley said the casino officials from Day 1 have been very adamant about doing as much local business as they can.

"Now obviously there's going to be things we just can't provide," Dudley said.

A couple examples have been the casino has purchased advertising items, such as shirts and other items, locally, Dudley said.

T.h.Snyder also is working on all the woodworking inside the casino, such as the floor base, pillars, beams and crown molding.

"It's going to be beautiful in what I saw on the plans," Dudley said.

The casino is expected to open in April.

Dudley said 2023 is going to be seeing one right after the other in openings, with Christie Clinic at the Riverfront, Carle at the Riverfront, FedEx, casino and others including restaurants near the Fischer Theatre.

"You're going to see the fruits of it," he said of all the work and construction being done.

Dudley said 2023 should be a banner year.

When the casino opens, there will be more residual business spin off, with more restaurants, hotels and others, he said.

"There's some things we're working on out there that's going to be very cool," he said. "It's going to change the landscape out there."

"The casino is going to be quite an economic engine," Dudley said. "Not only moneywise, but the things that are going to come around it. And that's the key."

There can be hotels, restaurants, recreation, gas stations, whatever, he said.

2022 saw Viscofan put in a new line and Voyant Beauty, formerly KIK Custom Products, was expected to close at the end of the year. It has 300 employees.

"We believe that those employees will be absorbed into the other labor forces. Your other manufacturers and retailers are all looking for people," Dudley said. "We don't have a problem. We know those are all going to be absorbed. In fact, some of them already have been."

He said there wasn't anything done wrong, but the local manufacturing plant was spun off.

"We don't like to lose anybody," he said. "We don't want Voyant to leave. But at least we're in a position where those employees can be absorbed. There's been times when companies went under and there's no place for their people to go. And that's when it's really, really bad. But there are places for them to go. So, we feel a lot less stressed about it than we normally would because we know there's places for them to go."

The Conagra Foods plant in Rossville has been purchased by Hubner Industries. Hubner Industries seed company has locations in West Lebanon, Ind. and Muncie, Ill., with more than 70 employees.

Elsewhere in Vermilion County, plans continue on a hotel project in Hoopeston.

"It's much needed," Dudley said.

Dudley said American Rescue Plan Act funds are impacting the area and helping communities. Bismarck used some funding on sidewalks.

Getting downtown Danville revamped also has been impactful for the area, he said.

He said downtown is looking good and more work will be done.

"People are wanting to be downtown again," he said about the festivals, Friday events and new businesses.

"It takes all these little foundation builders. And if you don't have a good, solid foundation to build on, it's all going to crumble down," Dudley said.