A Publication of WTVP

FEBRUARY: Caterpillar was on the crest of dozens of major business events and trends in 1993. The company stumped for NAFTA and GATT, finished re-engineering its factories, formed joint ventures to break into the Russian market, celebrated 30 years of business in Japan, launched 70 new or improved products, exported one-third of its worldwide sales from its U.S. plants, recalled or hired 670 Illinois workers, doubled its federal grant funding to develop dual-use technologies and returned to profitability.

NOVEMBER: It is clear by now that the three-year labor struggle between Caterpillar and the United Auto Workers union constitutes a watershed in the history of American industry. Increasingly, one has the feeling that the real battle is over and the company has won–that despite the best (or worst) efforts the UAW can mount against the company that signs its workers’ paychecks, Caterpillar has seen production and quality rise. Cat has shown the industrial world that manufacturing in the 1990s consists of technological prowess, organizational skill and an effective global strategy. It is increasingly clear that the current strike is about the survival of the UAW union, not Peoria’s major manufacturer.

A NAFTA Opportunity Center, to be located at Bradley University’s International Trade Center, will enable central Illinois businesses to take advantage of trade opportunities with Mexico and Canada related to NAFTA. The center, which will be one of two Illinois NAFTA centers and the only one downstate, will focus on helping small- and medium-sized businesses take advantage of the world’s largest free-trade zone.

  • RLI Corp. announced the introduction of its new corporate slogan, “Fundamentally Innovative,” created to reflect the company’s business philosophy.
  • Construction is underway on a new 15,000-square-foot building which will headquarter much of the East Peoria Festival of Lights operation.
  • L.R. Nelson Corporation, one of the nation’s leading manufacturers in the lawn watering equipment industry, celebrated the opening of its new $8 million, 240,000-square-foot facility.
  • The Illinois Antique Center plans to move to a refurbished building on Constitution Avenue between Harrison and Liberty Streets. A new arts center is also planned for an adjacent building.
  • A new restaurant and brew pub plans to locate in a renovated warehouse in the 400 block of SW Washington Street sometime early next year.

While the recession is over, downsizing is not, says Business Week magazine. Corporate America announced 615,186 layoffs in 1993, a new record, and 192,572 in the first quarter of 1994. The companies with the most announced worker reductions since 1991 are: IBM, 85,000; AT&T, 83,500; GM, 74,000; U.S. Postal Service, 55,000; and Sears, 50,000.

U.S. Bureau of Census figures show 11,000 fewer farms in Illinois in 1992 than in 1987. The size of the average farm has gone from 30 acres to 351 acres, and the number of 1,000-plus-acre farms rose by 20 percent.

The Creve Coeur Club of Peoria commemorated its centennial by honoring retiring House Minority Leader Bob Michel at its 96th annual Washington Day Banquet in February. Among the dignitaries who spoke at the event were Gov. Jim Edgar, Speaker of the House Thomas Foley and Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole.

In its centennial year, the Club announced the presentation of the newly established “Creve Coeur Club Robert H. Michel Lifetime Achievement Award,” to be presented annually to an individual who has served the Peoria community far above and beyond the expectations of normal responsible citizenship.

Prior to the banquet, InterBusiness Issues Editor David Wright had an opportunity to privately interview Senator Dole and Speaker Foley as they traveled from the Peoria airport toward downtown.

Wright: Senator Dole, how will you remember Bob Michel after he retires from the Washington scene?
Sen. Dole: Harry Truman used to say, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” There is an exception; if you want a friend in Washington, get to know Bob Michel. He’s just a good, decent person who will be missed. He’ll have a lot of friends as he goes.

Rebuilding the Peoria Chiefs baseball club will once again fall to Peoria’s Mr. Baseball, Pete Vonachen, following his acquisition of the club, along with a group of some 20 big-name investors reported to include Caterpillar’s Don Fites and auto dealer John Bearce. Vonachen will serve as general manager and president and will bring two of his sons into front office positions.

The search for 40 of Peoria’s leaders under the age of 40 is complete. Many individuals nominated the professionals they believed have made a difference-those who best defined the new spirit of youthful initiative throughout the Heartland. The inaugural class of 40 Leaders Under Forty were recognized at a gala event on Nov. 2nd at the Hotel Père Marquette.

They Said It…
“The biggest challenge, by far, faced by this company and U.S. industry in general, is that of a whole new economy developing. We are seeing a watershed event that in my lifetime could only be compared to the late ‘40s and ‘50s; a whole new economy is evolving, and now it’s a global economy.”
-Caterpillar Chairman/CEO Donald V. Fites

The out-of-town Clar Krusinski ownership, which saw dramatically decreased attendance at Chiefs games and a stack of unpaid bills to local vendors, sent the ballclub on a downward spiral over the past two years. The Vonachen deal looks to capitalize on the baseball expertise and charisma of the new general manager, who some say might be able to talk the Chicago Cubs into maintaining their affiliation with Peoria.

The newly opened Bob Michel Bridge should help eliminate highway and Illinois River traffic delays in Peoria by alleviating bottlenecks caused by the 82-year-old Franklin Street Bridge’s lift span. Construction of the $58 million bridge began in March 1990.

The East Peoria City Council designated Prudential Cullinan Properties Ltd. as the new developer of Eastport Marina. A formal groundbreaking was held on June 24th, and construction is now in full swing. The marina is expected to be operational for the 1995 season with 125 of the expected 588 slips ready for use.

The Heartland Community Development Corporation approved a line of credit to help Jay Goldberg develop “The Landing” on Peoria’s riverfront. Goldberg, who kicked off the project with a grand opening on June 10th, in conjunction with the re-opening of Bud Grieves’ Spirit of Peoria pleasure boat, will use the HCDC investment to purchase machinery and equipment. The Landing will host “world beat” style entertainment and serve tropical cuisine near the docking point for the Spirit. iBi