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A Publication of WTVP

This month's quick quiz:

Not many of us can answer those questions. County government tends to fly under our radar. If we all paid more attention, city folk would get their fair share of the pie. We'd be appointing-not electing-county-wide officers. Television and newspapers would hang on and report every word of every meeting. And, of course, we'd know who our representatives are.

If you live in or do business in Peoria County, it's time to enlighten yourself (see pages 4 and 5), particularly if you care about economic development and quality of life.

Your county board has elected to opt out of the tri-county Economic Development Council (EDC). In a nutshell, the board has decided it can do a better job than the professionals in expanding the local economy. To that end, it wants to use its annual EDC contribution ($40,000) to develop its own program-one it says will focus on small towns and townships.

Now, I grant that the cheeseburgers and fried chicken available in Kickapoo Township are probably under appreciated and under promoted. Still, I'm at a loss to see how the potential of features like that could match the positive impact on the county of a Peoria NEXT or the port district.

Apparently, I'm not alone. The county board itself hasn't really articulated any plan for the money, let alone the return it expects to get from spending it. Absent that, I'd suggest the citizens of Peoria County-yes, that includes those who live in the City of Peoria-are better served if that money went to the EDC.

The county has received about $5 back for every $1 it's sent to the EDC over the years. And that's just for grants and loans. Add in the indirect impact of jobs, quality of life and the like, and it's probably more.

Whether we like it or not, our economic development world is changing. Progress is measured in small steps. And each of those steps takes an inordinate amount of effort-not the least of which is fending off others who vie for the same prize.

This new reality means we can stop waiting for Caterpillar to announce a big new Peoria-area plant. It means capitalizing on our uniqueness, vigorously promoting everything from logistics to nature-based tourism. It means our people will need a lifetime of continual learning focused on changing opportunities.

Putting all this together is a complicated business. It means being competitive beyond central Illinois, beyond Illinois, even beyond national borders. It means professionals.

In looking at the county's Web site (http://www.co.peoria.il.us), one can see a defined set of objectives that reflect a governmental body with a good focus. Among those that should jump out at the business community are:

If the Peoria County Board is serious about achieving those objectives, it will delegate the work to the EDC, which has the staff, expertise, and experience to do the best job for the county, its citizens, and its businesses. IBI

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