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A roundup of things newsworthy and noteworthy
in your neck of the woods

June 24, 2009

Illinois – Playing with Popcorn

The agriculture department at Western Illinois University is popping up plans to market purple and gold popcorn and possibly plant some other colorful crops in 2009. The experiment started in 2007 and served up the organic snack at WIU’s football games the following fall. Illinois, the third largest producer of the crop in the nation, voted popcorn the Official Illinois Snack Food in 2003.

Indiana – Lincoln’s Log Cabin

Illinois might be known as the “Land of Lincoln,” but the neighboring state is where Honest Abe grew up—in a log cabin, no less. The homestead site, preserved at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Spencer County, is where Lincoln spent the formative years of his life—a fact many Indianans are proud of. The site attracts about 200,000 visitors per year, and the Indiana Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission hopes to attract even more with 2009 being the bicentennial of his birth.

Maryland – Financial Tips for Teens

It might seem easy for a sweet-16 to budget for a car, but he or she might not know how much owning a car can cost after insurance, maintenance and gas costs add up. The Attorney General’s office is making it a little easier to educate teens on the financial responsibilities of driving. Their Web site “Wise Buys” tackles this issue along with other fiscal tips for teens and tweens.

New York – Energy Buy-Back

Some New Yorkers might soon save money on their utility bills, and in the process actually make money. The New York Public Service Commission green-lighted a process called “net metering” this past winter that could make it so. Homeowners who use qualifying renewable energy, such as solar panels, can use net metering to sell excess renewable energy back to the utility company. The process is a win-win for both consumers and the environment.

North Carolina – GPS Treasure Hunt

Travelers across the states rely on GPS to stay on track in unfamiliar territory. But, in Asheville, tourists can get more than directions. As one of the best places for treasure hunting in the world, North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains have become a popular spot for geocaching, or using GPS systems to travel through planned scavenger hunts. Asheville promoted the activity in May 2008 with The Ultimate AsheCache. Today, the activity runs year-round.

Ohio – A Fleet with Alternative Fuel

The State of Ohio has been recognized for tracking the use of alternative fuels in state vehicles. In April, the State won the 2009 Larry Goill Memorial Quality Fleet Management Idea Award from the NAFA Fleet Management Association. The award applauded the State for creating and using a scorecard that measured how much alternative fuels were used in state owned and operated vehicles. The scorecard has resulted in the earth-friendly fueling for the fleet, including a 2,364 percent increase in the use of biodiesel.

Pennsylvania – An Economic Edge

A new online magazine and e-newsletter is spreading the word of economic growth in Pennsylvania. The publication, Keystone Edge, started in October 2008 and has since seen a steady growth in readership from across the state. Underwritten by the Department of Community and Economic Development, the publication tells the story of the new economy in Pennsylvania—a narrative of creative people and businesses, new development, cool places to live, and the best places to work and play.

Tennessee – Lawful Lifesavers

Tennessee drivers are staying safer on the roads thanks to the cooperation of the Tennessee Department of Safety (TDOS) and the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP). A variety of enforcement campaigns led to a sharp decrease in accident-related fatalities in 2008, and the effort continues in 2009. The initiative, funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, includes several programs that enforce laws related to drunk driving, traveling in construction zones and young drivers who fail to use seatbelts.

Virginia – Growing a Family of Feathers

A pair of bald eagles recently nested at the Norfolk Botanical Garden for the sixth year in a row, laying their first egg of 2009 in February. Once an endangered species and still listed as a threatened species by the Commonwealth of Virginia, bald eagles attract the attention of not only wildlife enthusiasts, but patriotic followers. The public can follow the lives of these two eagles through the Eagle Cam, a joint project of VDGIF, the Norfolk Botanical Garden and WVEC.com. The eagles can also be visited in person (from a distance, of course) by visiting the Norfolk Botanical Garden.

Washington, D.C. – Cooler Capital, Cooler World

Organizations, households and individuals around D.C. are teaming up to reduce green house gases as part of the Cool Capital Challenge. Cool Capital, the nonprofit consortium leading the effort, structured the contest like a capital campaign with contributions of carbon savings instead of cash. The challenge successfully raised pledges to reduce carbon emissions by 1 billion pounds in 2008, and the goal for 2009 is 2 billion pounds. Check out the latest pledges and learn how you can participate online.

West Virginia – The Art of Economics

The annual Contemporary American Theater Festival, held every summer in Shepherdstown, W.Va., does more than entertain visitors. According to a recent study, the festival is an economic engine that generated a total impact in excess of $2.1 million in 2008. Both in-state and out-of-state visitors enjoy the month-long festival each year, often coming for a day or weekend trip and spending money on play tickets, hotels, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, retail stores and more.

Wisconsin – Brewers, at the Plate

Milwaukee baseball fans will soon have a new license plate they can purchase to show their team spirit. While the Green Bay Packers have long had a special plate, the Brewers plate will be the first baseball plate in Wisconsin. Two designs will be available, and the revenue generated by the special plate will help retire the Miller Park debt.

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