Remember preparing to look for that first job out of college? Was your first inclination to look in the Peoria area? Probably not. Chicago, Denver, New York, maybe-someplace where there were lots of jobs and lots of excitement. The business community in Peoria concluded many years ago that to keep our young folks and new graduates in the community, we needed to provide them a wide variety of job opportunities. To do this, we needed to entice new companies to open their doors in Peoria and keep them open. But then virtually every community in the country concluded this. So how did we set ourselves apart from the rest?

Not so long ago we figured it out. Until about 10 years ago, it was difficult to attract and hold young professionals here unless they were considering a family. We certainly had the foundation of a diverse, exciting community, but we seemed to struggle with letting the rest of the world know. Today, the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau has a whole pallet of activities to offer, and some of the most important are provided by the arts community.

Within the last decade, there’s been a flourish of activity in the arts community. Peoria is becoming known nationally and internationally for the work of a number of individual artists and performing arts organizations. For example, just a few weeks ago, Peoria Ballet became one of about 300 ballet companies worldwide-and the only ballet company in Illinois outside Chicago-to be awarded the distinct honor of adding the work of George Balanchine to its repertoire. Balanchine (1904-1983) is regarded as the foremost contemporary choreographer in the world of ballet. Erich Yetter, artistic director of the Peoria Ballet, has shown that his company of dancers isn’t just extremely artistic, but they have exceptional athletic talents as well. Consider the level of professionalism this would be equivalent to in the professional sports industry. And it’s right here in the Peoria Ballet.

We have a superb ballet company, a symphony, and an opera company, amongst other performing arts venues. Do they add any value to our quality of life other than the obvious entertainment value of their productions? Consider the following: Almost all revenue generated by their performances remains in the Peoria area, as compared to performances brought to Peoria from other cities.

The artists have become Peoria citizens, and they and their families contribute to the economic and social strength of the community. With increased national and international notoriety, these organizations will be performing beyond Peoria, bringing revenue back to our community.

With continued success and growth, other name artists will seek to join these organizations in Peoria, thus increasing the value of the company to our community. Consider the educational benefits these organizations provide the community as our school systems are forced to reduce their performing arts programs. These are but a few of the reasons we need these organizations to remain part of our community, but they need your support.

These organizations are an integral part of the fabric of Peoria. We must ensure they continue to survive, or our efforts to draw and maintain a viable and diverse work force have little chance of success. AA!