A Publication of WTVP

The small business owner in central Illinois, concerned about recession, can sometimes feel he is at the mercy of numerous factors beyond his control, and it can be frustrating. A recession in Brazil can affect him through a resultant production slowdown at Caterpillar. The threat of trouble in UAW/Caterpillar contract negotiations can cause his profits to dry up. He can find it difficult to get credit for needed expansion because of national banking problems that were no fault of his own. Red ink in Washington and Springfield eventually filters down to his business via higher taxes. A multitude of factors can make it difficult to do business, from rising healthcare costs to increased government regulations.

It’s encouraging to see some attention at both the local and state levels focused back to helping small businesses succeed in a complex and competitive environment. The future of the United States economy is in its small businesses. The days when a few large employers could "carry" an economic area are rapidly fading. Future economic success stories will be written with the pens of renewed workplace innovation, technology, diversification, leadership training and worker education. Central Illinois has the human and natural resources to be a viable leader.

What will the Persian Gulf War mean to Caterpillar? That is one of the many questions being raised as central Illinois businesses gaze into the economic crystal ball. Caterpillar, Inc. officials are maintaining that any potential benefits due to increased orders for large pieces of equipment will be more than offset by the deepening national recession to which the war is contributing. Some industry financial analysts, however, insist that the company will be in a very good position to supply heavy equipment for rebuilding efforts in the Middle East following the war.

They Said It…
"If we’re not competitive on a global basis, there will be no jobs for any of us."
-Caterpillar Inc. Chairman Donald V. Fites

"The purpose of Heartland Commerce and Economic Development Inc. is to help coordinate and communicate the purposes of the various organizations that are a part of the parent company. We are thinking of…replacing this long organizational name with ‘Heartland Partnership.’ To me that makes more sense. It was never anyone’s intention to swallow any organization up, control programs, or give overt direction, but rather to let the organizations have a life of their own." James T. Dittoe, Heartland Commerce and Economic Development Inc.

"EDC is supported by three counties, 15 communities and over 150 private corporations within the Tri-County Area. We have come a long way from 1981-82 when this still tended to be a very fractionalized area with a relatively poor track record of cooperation as a region. Often it is still a fragile coalition to be sure, but I think we have done a good job in crystallizing many different communities toward a common goal. We have made the case that a regional approach for development is absolutely essential, and that what happens in the City of Peoria affects the various surrounding communities and vice-versa."
-EDC Vice President Martin Mini

The reconstruction of Kuwait following an end to the Gulf War is expected to be the largest in history, a $100 billion effort, much larger than the Marshall Plan in Europe following WWII. A rebuilding of Iraq would constitute an even larger effort.

The cities of East Peoria and Peoria reached an intergovernmental agreement on riverboat gambling, which has the operation located on the East Peoria side of the river with the cities splitting the tax revenue.

The Greater Peoria Riverboat Corp. is working on the docking and boating facilities, and recently announced that the gambling boat "Par-A-Dice," a 228-foot-long, 1,200-passenger, 4-deck sternwheeler will be arriving by mid-August.

If I could say one thing to local members of the United Auto Workers as contract talks begin with Caterpillar, it would be this: "Things aren’t what they once were." As you consider a new contract, there are some factors involved that are beyond the immediate control of either the company or the union, issues like: skyrocketing healthcare costs, increasing foreign competition, a catastrophic economic downturn for Caterpillar in Brazil, a domestic and European recession resulting in a slump in demand for construction and earth-moving sales, and numerous other factors.

It is not an issue of anti-union/pro-company or pro-union/anti-company. It is an issue of introducing some economic realism into the whole situation. No worker likes to accept benefits concessions, and every worker likes to see sizeable wage increases, but in the current local and national economy, companies like Caterpillar, and ultimately the labor unions themselves, cannot afford a 1970s mentality. Caterpillar has learned the hard way that times have changed. The UAW must come to recognize it too.

The Peoria area was recently profiled on national television as a city showing solid growth in the face of the national recession. The profile for ABC’s Business World featured the area’s booming construction activity, rejuvenated manufacturing sector, advances in biotech research and the influx of new white-collar businesses which have helped diversify the economy. These factors, coupled with an affordable real estate market and a base of international trade, have helped the Peoria area show resiliency during an otherwise slumping period. 


Is Bush beatable in 1992? Many observers didn’t think so three months ago, but they are starting to wonder, based on growing domestic and economic unrest.