In May, major planning initiatives were announced with Mayor Ransburg’s Vision 2020 regional task force and the charrette process of Miami-based town planning firm Duany Plater-Zyberk. Both will help form a comprehensive roadmap for the Peoria area’s future. It will give leaders from all major business and community-interest sectors (and citizens too) an opportunity to offer input into our ideal future state.

We thought it might be interesting and fun to do a little look ahead ourselves. In this column, we set the bar for what the region looks like in 2020—where it works, where it plays, how it lives. We touch on some of the issues on the minds of—and most important to—our core audience, the business sector.

Education & Workforce Development

A model partnership between District 150 and the area’s employers offers a curriculum track that teaches and trains students for the growing number of available jobs in the community. District 150’s first-ever Tourism Academy is formed to train high school students in the fast-growing hospitality industry. Illinois Central College is recognized as the destination in the Midwest for workforce training and development, with special emphasis in the areas of technology and health care. A virtual research university has been created through broad collaboration and connectivity between Caterpillar, Bradley, ICC, USDA Ag Lab, UICOMP, and others.

Business and Jobs

More than 20 mid-sized and five major high-tech companies have spawned from the Peoria Regional BioCollaborative’s initiatives. New start-up companies continue to occur at a rate of one a month. These home-grown enterprises have contributed to a diversified economic mix that balanced Caterpillar’s continuing presence in the community. Growth has come in services, agriculture, manufacturing, medicine, and information technology. Wage rates, while high, don’t price us out of competition for new industry. Productivity is among the best in the Midwest.

Recreation, Sports and Tourism

The addition of new exhibits continues to bring national recognition to the Peoria Zoo and Gardens following its $25 million renovation 10 years ago. National media recognizes Peoria as the sports mecca of the Midwest. An expanded Civic Center exhibition hall is a preferred destination, which routinely draws top national conventions and trade shows. The refurbished arena lands top entertainment acts. O’Brien Field lights up downtown with sports and entertainment year round. Bradley basketball has been back for a long time and it’s staying. Braves games routinely sell out, having finished the last season once again as NIT champions.

Downtown and Riverfront

Downtown has become a city within a city. Hundreds of families have taken up new addresses and a new phenomena called urban living. New condos and loft apartments have sprung up along the waterfront. Vintage home restoration occurred widely in adjacent neighborhoods, making downtown the place to live. Shopping, culture, entertainment, fine restaurants, great schools, and even the corner grocery store can be found. In short, downtown has it all. The Regional Museum continues to set new attendance records. A virtual pipeline of exhibits and artifacts flow between Peoria and the Smithsonian. The Illinois River, once destined to become a mud flat, now reflects a great success story. Through technology and tenacity, the Illinois once again flows clear and deep.

A bit far-fetched? Maybe, but we do have the opportunity, ability, and responsibility to invent the future for central Illinois. A few weeks ago, Lou Tice from the Pacific Learning Institute challenged and motivated some 400 of Peoria’s best and brightest gathered at the Peoria Civic Center for the Discovery Forum. His challenge was to set bold goals for ourselves and our community—goals which stretch our imaginations beyond what we believe to be our limits. Then, most importantly, not to compromise by pulling back from our dreams because the going gets tough and money gets tight. Visioning is not an exact science. We think our vision and the potential for our community are crystal clear (some might even say 2020). IBI