A new year (already?) brings with it new hopes. This annual time of looking ahead helps us realize progress isn't necessarily giant, unanticipated steps. Instead, it's the steady, thoughtful steps that continue projects or ideas already on the drawing boards.
With that in mind, here are some of the steady, thoughtful steps we'd like to see taken this year:
- Civic Center renovation and expansion begins. There's been some excellent debate on minor and major points involved. It's important to retain as much of the original design as possible, and that's been justifiably high on many lists.
- Hotel Père Marquette renovation begins. As the stages of improvement progress, we all begin to see the Grand Ol' Lady restored to past elegance.
- A Regional Web Portal attracts thousands, who, in turn, gain a greater appreciation of what this area has to offer. A joint effort of numerous organizations, the portal exceeds its expectations of better positioning the area for business, economic development, tourism, and workforce development.
- District 150 chooses a new administrator and soon peace, unity, and a focus on students-rather than personalities-are trademarks of board meetings. The community and, most importantly, the students visibly reap the benefits.
- Peoria NEXT announces one new incubator after another as awareness grows regarding what the combination of Caterpillar, Bradley, the USDA, and the U of I College of Medicine can contribute.
- West Main Street, speaking of unique partnerships, continues its transformation as new businesses and neighborhoods create an atmosphere that attracts people and capital.
- On the sports scene, Bradley and ISU share the Missouri Valley title and move on to post-season success. While that's happening, Peoria hosts the state high school basketball tournament for the 10th year. The entire community determines that keeping that tournament here must be an "any cost" effort for all of us. The Peoria Chiefs are now in the Cubs system, and that translates into local excitement and record crowds. They play the Cardinals-affiliated Quad Cities team June 16 to 19 and August 11 to 14. Fans from far and wide mark the dates and pack the house.
- The I-74 upgrade completes its most visible-and disruptive-stage when the Murray Baker Bridge opens after being closed since April 1. Thousands of area residents celebrate with a once-in-a-lifetime community walk across the bridge just before it reopens.
- Forbes magazine elevates the Peoria area to double digits on its annual listing of the best metro areas to launch a business or a career. We were 180th in 2002, improved dramatically in 2003 to 119th, but fell last year to 127th. The magazine recognizes the area has all the right elements: universities, a diverse and educated work force, and relatively low costs.
- The Central Illinois Regional Museum starts poking through the rubble of the Sears block. Caterpillar's statement to the community of an $11 million donation, preceded by the announcement of $275,000 in federal money, followed by the city council's imprimatur, means this long-awaited project is now a "go" after so many years of discussion. The handful of cities remaining ahead of us on the Forbes list all admit they'd do anything to have a $90 million jewel like that in the heart of their downtowns.
- East Peoria receives the $11.5 million it was promised from the state more than a year ago. The city uses the money to build two streets through what will become the Peoria Area Technology Park.
InterBusiness Issues will continue sharing the hopes and progress of our central Illinois business community. We eagerly anticipate what 2005 will bring. Happy New Year. IBI