A Publication of WTVP
Illinois Corridor 74 is an effort to showcase our part of central Illinois along I-74, including the greater areas of Peoria, Bloomington-Normal, and Champaign-Urbana. With recognition that we have much to offer as communities individually-yet much more to offer as a group of communities working together-I've embarked on a journey for the past six months much like that of an old-fashioned traveling salesman, knocking on doors one by one trying to sell something: an idea.

I've had dozens of conversations in recent months with community leaders within Illinois Corridor 74 and am pleased to report some of what I've heard and discovered.

The people of central Illinois truly want to work together as partners. Mayors David Ransburg of Peoria, Chris Koos of Normal, Judy Markowitz of Bloomington, Tod Satterthwaite of Urbana, and Gerald Schweighart of Champaign have all enthusiastically embraced the idea of cooperating together for the future well-being of all our communities and their residents. Sure, friendly competition will continue to exist-but emphasis will be on the word "friendly." We're putting aside the attitudes that make us see one another as opponents and are joining hands together as friends.

One thought I shared with the mayors was that building relationships was crucial to our future success as partners. When we make a sincere effort to get to know one another personally, and in so doing recognize how much we have in common, we're much more willing and able to collectively meet our challenges. I know the mayors agree with this and are working at becoming better acquainted. We should all thank them for that; it will indeed pay off in the future.

I'm also pleased with the positive response of our economic development leaders throughout the area to the prospects of working together. They all acknowledge the importance of cooperation in today's economy and want to help craft a new and productive partnership. Jim McConoughey in Peoria, Marty Vanags in Bloomington-Normal, and Jill Guth in Champaign County-and their colleagues throughout the area-are all poised to help.

You should know Illinois Corridor 74 is blessed to have one of its own within the inner circles of Gov. Blagojevich's regional economic development plans. Mike Kelleher of Normal, who heads the 10-county North Central Region, is being well received for his work. Recently, as we discussed Illinois Corridor 74, a business leader in Peoria told me what a good job Mike was doing. That was music to my ears: a Peoria business owner singing the praises of someone from Normal.

Indeed, there are cooperative efforts already underway. If you haven't heard of the AgriScience Discovery Corridor project, for example, you surely will soon. A partnership of individuals, businesses, and institutions along Illinois Corridor 74-including a neighbor in Decatur-are focusing on efforts to place us in the forefront of agriculture/science research and technical development.

When you have Sen. Rick Winkel, Growmark, ADM, the University of Illinois and Enterprise Works at its Research Park, Bradley University, the USDA Peoria Ag Lab, Country Financial, Peoria NEXT, and others joining in, it's true testimony to the power of cooperation among our great assets in central Illinois.

I've had the opportunity to discuss the AgriScience Corridor and Illinois Corridor 74 with Growmark President and Board Chairman Dan Kelley, Bradley President David Broski and Vice President Bill Engelbrecht, University of Illinois Vice President David Chicoine, and Peoria NEXT Managing Director Dr. Richard Lister, and I'm excited about working with them on these ventures.

I've also learned in my discussions with our community colleges, universities, and area manufacturers that there's a plan afoot to provide technologically advanced manufacturing training for new employees, with the cooperation of 28 manufacturers along Illinois Corridor 74, through some potential independent foundation funding. There's truly a need for these highly skilled workers immediately, and our community colleges and four-year institutions are well positioned to provide their training.

These are just a few examples of the conversations I've been party to recently about cooperative efforts in our area. While I continue to make individual contacts throughout the area about Illinois Corridor 74, our next step is a more public one. We're currently developing a Web site that will be dedicated to interbusiness and intergovernmental cooperation and enhanced communication among our central Illinois communities. Watch for, which will be up and running soon.

Your participation is encouraged to make this interactive site successful. You can register on the site as a partner and make use of the forums available. Dan Kelley of Growmark is the author of our first Featured Partner article. If you, too, have a positive story to tell about cooperation along Illinois Corridor 74-and/or would like to submit a letter or statement, please e-mail [email protected].

We would like to include you as a partner along Illinois Corridor 74. IBI