A Publication of WTVP

So many things have changed in the past 20 years. Take groceries, for example. In the late 1980s, the average price for a gallon of two-percent milk was around $1.59, sliced bread was around 55 cents, a ham and cheese pizza went for around $2.49 and a five-pound bag of potatoes cost $1.00.

Those prices have certainly changed, and so has our community. Two decades ago this community was almost solely dependent on manufacturing, but today only 17 percent of our workforce is directly tied to manufacturing.

People have a hard time accepting these numbers; but we need to take into consideration how our local manufacturing companies, like Caterpillar, are more global in scope today than ever before. Twenty years ago, that company depended on central Illinois, but today, 50 percent of its workforce is outside the United States, and it has a far-reaching global supply chain. Manufacturing is still a major force in our community, but the impact of the industry has changed in 20 years.

Since the 1980s, the Peoria area has diversified its economy and increased its job count from 146,000 jobs in 1986 to 194,000 in 2008. That is nearly 50,000 net new jobs, one of the highest percentage increases in the country.

The majority of jobs have been created in industries outside of the manufacturing sector, such as healthcare, transportation, technology, professional/technical services, and agriculture. We are fortunate that we have broadened our employment base because it allows us some insulation from the cyclical swings that affect any specific industry group.

Twenty years ago, we had unemployment rates over 16 percent and people were leaving the region in droves. In fact, the saying going around back then was "The last person out of town, turn off the lights." Today, people are saying "It’s better here."

I think that’s due in part to communication. We now tweet, post and text news the moment it happens. We can retrieve information a dozen different ways, anytime and anyplace. Information can be disseminated to thousands of people immediately with the click of a button. We can get the word out quickly and keep people informed up-to-the-minute and around-the-clock. This allows our community to communicate with each other and helps people understand what’s happening around them.

iBi has been doing this for 20 years, and we hope it will continue for many more. Thank you, iBi, for helping to build our region over the past 20 years. iBi