Last January we published our wish list for the area for 2006. Looking back one year later, although not all of our wishes were fulfilled, several important ones were. Topping off the list was the completion of I-74 Upgrade, the largest road reconstruction project in the history of downstate Illinois. After several years of detours, lane closings and slow speeds, we can finally begin reaping the rewards of improved access to the city. My first drive across the Murray Baker Bridge into Peoria was a beautiful thing to behold—as I’m sure it was for you, too!

In 2006, the Peoria Riverfront Museum got a name and Junction City got a makeover. Peoria’s world-class medical community announced a number of exciting new expansion projects, as did Bradley University. Ground was broken on the zoo’s Africa! Exhibit, the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center and the new Illinois Medical Center at the College of Medicine. TransPORT hired its first executive director and the Convention and Visitors Bureau found its new President/CEO.

So much development is taking place across the region that it’s difficult to keep up! Northwoods Mall completed its renovation project, while the Hotel Pere Marquette is just about finished with its own. Westlake Shopping Center is now an upscale shopping plaza. The Civic Center expansion made great headway, with a grand opening scheduled for later this year.

Community school projects were implemented at three area schools. A pilot program for a citywide wireless network was launched. The Greater Peoria Regional Airport added two new destinations, and Firefly Energy received national recognition for its emerging battery technologies.

I think it’s safe to say that 2006 was a very successful year for the Peoria area, due in no small part to the coordination, collaboration and coming together of a host of organizations throughout the community. The Heartland Partnership and its subsidiaries, PACVB, Peoria Civic Federation and the City of Peoria have proven that a lot more can be accomplished by aligning their agendas and working together.

This community spirit is essential to the long-term success of the region at large. Strong businesses and healthy communities in Bloomington, Pekin and Galesburg also benefit Peoria, Morton and Goodfield. Now that the drive is easy, from Bloomington-Normal through Peoria to Galesburg, we hope that our mantra becomes “regional” in 2007. IBI