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In an era marked by skyrocketing housing prices and a dwindling supply of affordable options, the American dream of homeownership seems increasingly out of reach. According to the National Association of Realtors, the U.S. is short millions of homes, a gap that has significantly contributed to the housing affordability crisis. This shortfall has been exacerbated by labor shortages, supply chain disruptions, and rising construction costs, making the need for innovative building solutions more pressing than ever.

Enter KB Pods, a warehouse tenant at America's Central Port and a forward-thinking company with a pioneering approach to crafting modular kitchens and baths. They offer efficiency, affordability, and quality to the housing market, benefitting builders and new homeowners.

A Partnership Driving Innovation Forward

"Choosing America's Central Port as our base of operations has been a transformative decision for KB Pods," says Trudy Luchini, General Manager of KB Pods. "Our experience at America's Central Port has revealed an invaluable truth: the Port is far more than a landlord; they are a cornerstone of economic development and a genuine partner in our growth."

The KB Pods Solution: Revolutionizing Home Building with Modular Kitchens and Baths

KB Pods has developed a revolutionary method of constructing kitchen and bath modular units in a controlled prefabrication setting. This innovative process streamlines construction and significantly reduces the time and cost of building new homes. By focusing on some of the most labor-intensive areas of home construction, KB Pods is making strides toward closing the housing affordability gap, especially for middle-income families looking for quality, accessible options.

KB Pods Kitchen and Bath Modular Residential Construction

The Advantages of Modular Construction with KB Pods

Efficient and Controlled Construction

A home's most trade-intensive areas are the construction of the kitchen and bathrooms, which typically require carpenters, finish carpenters, electricians, and plumbers. KB Pods' modular units are constructed in a warehouse, where the environment is meticulously controlled. This approach mitigates common construction hurdles, such as labor shortages, scheduling conflicts, and supply chain issues, and eliminates weather-related delays.

Quality, Customization, and Speed

Beyond control and efficiency, KB Pods strongly emphasizes the quality of its units, ensuring that each modular kitchen and bath comes equipped with top-tier appliances and finishes. These units can be customized to fit the specific needs and preferences of the builder or homeowner, providing a personalized touch that is often missing in the middle-market housing sector. Moreover, KB Pods has demonstrated the ability to significantly reduce construction times, with a 3-bedroom/2-bath home completed in just 28 business days after the pods were set.

Expanding Beyond Residential Construction

KB Pods’ innovative approach has also succeeded in commercial sectors, including restaurants, retail spaces, and lodging facilities. This versatility highlights the potential for modular construction to address various aspects of the housing and building crisis, providing efficient, customizable solutions across the board.

KB Pods Kitchen and Bath Modular Residential Construction

In a landscape where the dream of homeownership is increasingly challenging, KB Pods offers a viable path forward, promising a future where affordable, quality housing is accessible to all.

For more information about KB Pods, check out their website at

Ferry study - stock photo of a vehicle transport ferry

A planning study is underway to highlight the importance of an often-forgotten but very important transportation mode: ferries.  Vehicle ferries operate in the St. Louis metropolitan region, but many residents have never ridden them or even thought about them.  

Ferries were once the only method of safely crossing a river.  In St. Louis, many families made their living on transporting horses, mules, wagons, goods, people, and eventually vehicles across a river.  Early ferries used horses or mules on each riverbank to drag a wooden raft back and forth.  These ferries were invariably named after the families, and in St. Louis, the roads that led to the ferry landing still bear the family names today, such as Tesson Ferry, Halls Ferry, Lemay Ferry, and Dougherty Ferry Roads.  Progress and technology brought about bridges to span the distance from one bank to the other, and over time, many of the ferries went by the wayside.  But not all.

Ferries can link two communities on opposite sides of a river and often save 15 to 45 minutes of travel time by not using the traditional roadways or the closest bridge. Ferries can be life-saving in times when quick access to emergencies is necessary, can save commuters hundreds of dollars a year in gas and car expenses, and can connect tourists to a river and river towns such as the Grafton Ferry. They are crucial to the river towns that are served by them, relying on the ferry service for access to daily essentials and tourism.

On the national or statewide scale today however, vehicle ferries are many times an afterthought. In Illinois for instance, ferries are not mentioned in the Long-Range Transportation Plan authored by the Illinois Department of Transportation. The Ferry Study underway hopes to change that, as well as to bring about a spotlight on operations of the ferries working in the State of Illinois.  

There is a wide range of ownership and operation of ferries just within the State.  Some are privately-owned by families who love the river and give it their heart and soul.  Many of these however, can be struggling just to make ends meet.  Boats and deck barges are expensive, and new regulations make it difficult for these private operators to take on other expenses such as the maintenance of the landings on either side of the river, or the roadways leading to them.

Other ferries are operated by the State of Illinois such as Brussels Ferry north of Grafton, or funded by a combination of states, like Cave-In-Rock Ferry between Illinois and Kentucky.  These publicly-funded ferries typically do not lack the resources to make site improvements or take on additional costs, highlighting the large disparity between the publicly- and privately-operated ferries which is one of the goals that the Study hopes to address.

Although ferries are often overlooked in the Midwest, they remain a crucial transportation mode to those who use them.  The Ferry Study to be completed this Summer will address the challenges associated with ferry operations.  

For additional information, contact Christie Voelker at America’s Central Port at


Following two successful visits by high school students to America's Central Port in 2022 and 2023, an idea was generated to create an experimental summer workshop, that would not only introduce teens to the trades but give them real-world hands-on experience.

The idea rapidly transformed into action, gaining the support of the Port's team, Madison County Employment and Training Department, Granite City High School, and the Board of Education. As soon as the Port announced the program, Granite City High School got the word out, and those who responded first were added to the roster.

From Vision to Execution

Structured as a 5-day program, ten students from Granite City High School and the surrounding area, ranging from Freshmen to Seniors, met Monday to Friday from 8 am to 3 pm for one week in June of 2023. A maximum capacity of ten students ensured personalized attention and a one-of-a-kind immersive experience.

The maintenance team at America's Central Port is cross-trained to take on multiple projects across many specializations. Because of this, the Port wanted to make sure the hands-on activities that were chosen reflected the myriad of projects the Port maintenance team tackles any given day of the week.

Project 1: Safety First

Safety isn't just a buzzword. To ensure no detail was overlooked, students were split into pairs and assigned a dedicated maintenance worker. Five staff members from the Port team, including Brian Stahlschmidt, Darrin Jones, Will Moore, Jay Jackson, and Jay Petras, worked one-on-one with each student, an investment the Port found crucial to providing a true hands-on experience. Every day started by discussing the work ahead and challenging students to think along with their mentor counterparts about what tools, materials, and safety requirements are needed to get the job done right, safely, on budget, and on time. In addition, each participant was equipped with a safety pack at the start of the program, containing work gloves and protective glasses, where additional protective gear was provided as needed.

Project 2: Concrete Sidewalk Construction

From tamping a rock bed to pouring and finishing the concrete, and then removing the forms the next day, students built a sidewalk from start to finish. To ensure success in the event of rain, additional sites were pre-prepped with a skid-steer by the maintenance team.

Project 3: Wood Stud Wall Construction

The Port set up shop in one of its off-market commercial spaces where students could construct a wall as though they were building within a real commercial space, not just a classroom. The project included framing, basic electrical placements for lights and plugs, sweating copper pipes, setting a toilet and a p-trap for a sink, and drywalling. At the end of their work, all students were able to turn on the lights they had wired.

Project 4: Residential Walk-Through & HVAC Maintenance Overview

To appreciate the significance of their handiwork, students toured an apartment to see an example of their finished work, as well as understand additional home-related maintenance tasks, such as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.

Project 5: Wood Stud Wall Demolition

In order to provide the full experience of wall construction, the last project the Port organized to round out the week was hands-on demolition. Supervised and instructed on how to do so in a safe and controlled environment, students got to use a number of power tools and equipment to demo the walls they built earlier in the week.

Additionally, throughout their week, students were given the opportunity to weld and operate a backhoe, two skills in high demand in the manufacturing and construction industry.

Beyond the projects that were facilitated for each student, tenants of America's Central Port like KB Pods, which manufactures modular kitchens and bathrooms, and River's Edge Terminals, which manages petroleum products for customers around the world, provided tours of their facilities to provide a behind-the-scenes look into what it's like to work for a trades-based employer. SCF Lewis and Clark, the barge and river terminal operators, also provided a talk and overview of career paths that have the potential to earn over a six-figure income through various trade-related paths within the river transportation sector.

Inspiring Future Success

The program was conceived to take ten young individuals and give them the confidence to consider a career in the trades. The outcome went far beyond that.

Parents were amazed when their children were up early and ready to go to "work" each day. They were eager, showed enthusiasm, and weren't mopey or dragging their feet at home during that full week. Several parents asked if the program could last all summer long because of the drastic change they saw in their children. Port maintenance staff learned to become teachers, and everyone learned that with a little patience, training, and one-on-one attention, young students have the gift to give back more than we ever dreamed.

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