It’s hard to imagine a busier, more exciting time in this area’s recent history. From the I-74 reconstruction to the multitude of projects and plans on both sides of the river, it’s a vibrant time here.
While the interstate work will be completed this year (yes, this year!), many of the projects underway and on the books have completion dates of years down the road. And many more are perpetual and need to be managed so the broad, long-term objectives remain in focus as pieces are added—and altered.
For that to happen, it’s imperative that role be consolidated into one lead organization that can ensure all those pieces fit into the whole. The most promising organization is the Economic Development Council of Central Illinois with its regional focus.
The EDC recently reorganized to receive more participation from communities and their political leaders. This will guarantee that the entire area moves forward in a cohesive and significant manner.
The EDC now will have a three-tier structure consisting of a board of directors, an advisory board, and a board of investors. This will lead to increased communication and broader avenues of input.
A strong—and inclusive—EDC strengthens our hand and ensures we can work significantly with neighboring groups (such as Bloomington-Normal) and with the state. An August Pantagraph editorial suggested they see the possibilities: “Peoria and Bloomington-Normal—and possibly Decatur—have plenty to offer expanding or new firms. The weakness of one may be covered by the strength of another…Losing a business to a neighbor is better than losing to the far reaches of the state.” A regional economic development plan can draw upon the talents and strengths in the area and channel them in a direction that benefits all.
Life is no longer lived in a vacuum. Think of where your employees live, where their spouses work. Think of the number of local businesses that operate in multiple locations. Not only are the boundaries within central Illinois being relegated to just lines on a map, but we’re part of an even bigger picture. Like never before, our lives here are impacted by what happens in Decatur, Springfield, Bloomington, Chicago, etc. It’s imperative we have one voice—one strong voice—as we work with those other entities.
Economic development remains the major focus, and given the competitive climate, that can’t be left to chance. Neither can it be left to a multitude of organizations with narrow purposes—purposes that can seem competitive to businesses interested in locating here.
The challenge we face is to sustain and expand the current momentum. That will only happen if all oars are rowing together. We see that happening and commend the political leadership in the area, specifically the mayors of Peoria and East Peoria, for seizing this opportunity and endorsing the EDC as the vehicle to move the area forward. IBI