With leadership front and center in this issue of InterBusiness Issues, we went straight to the local leaders responsible for guiding their communities through current and future revitalization. We asked area mayors and village board presidents, “In terms of economic vitality and quality of life in 2015, what is your vision for the tri-county area, what steps need to be taken to achieve that, and what do you see your community’s role being?”

EAST PEORIA: Mayor Charles Dobbelaire
“It is my hope that by the year 2015, local government and businesses, working together, will have fully implemented and advanced current Peoria NEXT initiatives and created a sustainable regional economy focused around technology-related jobs. These jobs will be a result of commercializing technology and innovation conceived locally and advanced from incubator to accelerator stages and beyond.

“The City of East Peoria is doing its part to make sure this vision is realized by collaborating with Peoria NEXT and facilitating development of acres of land owned by Caterpillar Foundation located in the heart of the metropolitan area, strategically acquiring valuable properties located along the eastern bank of the Illinois River, and leveraging local assets to obtain state and federal dollars that can be used to achieve the visions outlined in our various city and riverfront master plans.”

EUREKA: Mayor Scott Punke
“The financial growth and development of our area is dependent on our ability to communicate. Communication or lack thereof normally determines success or failure. Opening the lines of communication between an entire network of communities could greatly assist in the success of growth, development, and improved living conditions for everyone. By simply sharing ideas and experiences, a group can expand its reference resources while reducing time and money to complete research if done unassisted.

“The City of Eureka realizes the importance of communication amongst ourselves and between other communities and has recently formed a communication committee to assist in this area. It’s my vision that our community will become close neighbors with all of the surrounding communities in the tri-county area and that we can work with each other to solve individual community problems, as well as problems that affect us as a group. I’ve met with leaders from several surrounding communities to discuss our individual goals and problems in an attempt to build a working relationship between communities.”

MORTON: President Norman Durflinger
“The tri-county population will increase at a greater rate due to a new awareness of the quality of life in the area. The affordability of housing, the quality of medical facilities, schools, parks, library systems, and cultural events have been a ‘best-kept secret.’ The area will continue to have industry, but an effort to enhance high-tech medical services will cause all types of technological business to be established. Playing in Peoria will have a new meaning in 2015. It won’t be only playing—it will be living in Peoria.

“The tri-county area will need to develop a mindset of looking forward and aligning all of the positive qualities toward the common good of the three counties. Leaders must jointly determine the direction of this area and then work toward achieving the goals, even if the goals may be counter to the best interest of any one community.

“I see my community’s role as that of working with other communities to develop and then implement a 10- to 20-year economic development plan that includes technology, communication, transportation, health care, education, and all the other issues that comprise an improved quality of life.”

NORMAL: Mayor Chris Koos
“I believe the 10-year economic outlook in the tri-county business community is very encouraging. In recent years, central Illinois has benefited from private and public investments that will continue to positively influence the community for years to come. Local governments also are choosing to take a significant role in this effort through aggressive infrastructure and quality of life enhancement programs.

“The key to enhancing the economic vitality of the tri-county region in the next 10 years is diversity. Economic diversity is essential in this age where geographic boundaries have been erased and opportunities for innovation are limitless. The region must be able to both maintain and expand its current diverse mix of industries, while at the same time sufficiently invest in new opportunities that will prepare tomorrow’s business leaders for an increasingly competitive environment.

“I believe the Town of Normal and other local governments must take a two-pronged approach in the coming years. Continued aggressive investment in our community’s infrastructure is absolutely essential. The community’s infrastructure will continue to serve as a cornerstone for economic expansion. Secondly, we must invest in the people of the region. Our city centers and neighborhoods must be attractive for employees and their families. A strong continuing commitment must be made to public safety, education, and other services that make a community a place to call home.”

PEORIA: Mayor Jim Ardis
“Collaboration and teamwork will be two keys for success if the tri-county area is to grow and prosper in the next 10 years. The days of parochialism should be a thing of the past. City and business leaders in Peoria, Tazewell, and Woodford counties need to strengthen our relationships and work toward the common good of the region. Business gains in East Peoria or Metamora or Peoria are gains not just for that city, but for our entire region. The sooner we begin communicating and collaborating, the sooner our region will grow and, hopefully, improve our quality of life along the way.

“We have an opportunity to evolve the Peoria region into a transportation hub. Our geographic position in the heart of the U.S. makes us a natural location for intermodal connection capabilities by truck, barge, air, or railroad. As the largest city in the tri-county area, I envision Peoria taking a leadership role by encouraging interaction and an ongoing exchange of ideas that will lead to growth in all of our communities. In addition, Peoria will provide leadership in promoting a positive business climate and the outstanding cultural amenities in our communities.” IBI