A Publication of WTVP

The Heartland Partnership’s new community campaign, I’m Stepping Up, ( is designed to get people talking about the positive things happening in central Illinois. We know that great people are doing great things in the region, but when you take a step back and really look at what is happening, it’s pretty amazing—especially when you consider we are just coming out of one of the worst recessions many of us have seen. Many regions shut down during the recession, but we continued to move forward. Because of that perseverance, we have some regional developments that are going to move us full-speed ahead.

The recent announcement of Bass Pro Shops coming to town is something that everyone is talking about. The outdoor mega-store is slated to open its 58th location in East Peoria, which will bring a much-appreciated boost to our regional economy.

Bass Pro Shops traditionally locates in communities that celebrate the outdoors, and this announcement reaffirms that our region is an outdoor destination with much to offer. Considered a tourist destination in many communities, the store will be a major asset for regional tourism, expected to bring an average of three million people to the area annually. Many of them will stay overnight, bringing more hotel nights, more people shopping at other retailers, and more people attending events while they are here.

Besides the increase in dollars resulting from increased traffic, consider the employment impact. The 146,000-square-foot mega-store will bring over 200 construction jobs to the area, with both construction of the store itself, and a new road that will be built to access the site just north of the Murray Baker Bridge and I-74. And then, Bass Pro Shops plans to hire nearly 300 full-time employees once the store is open in the fall of 2011.

That is just one of the developments to highlight. Another is the Cancer Research Center at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria. The Heartland Foundation is partnering with the University of Illinois to design and construct a two-story, state-of-the-art Cancer Research Center consisting of laboratory and office space totaling 20,000 square feet. This modern facility will allow for expanded research and discovery led by renowned scientist Dr. Jasti Rao.

This construction will create a full continuum of healthcare opportunities at the College of Medicine. The Cancer Research Center represents basic science research, while the existing college provides teaching and education, and the recently completed Illinois Medical Center provides unique clinical opportunities right on campus. By providing a full range of medical opportunities at the College of Medicine, more doctors will be attracted to the region, and Peoria’s reputation as a dynamic center for outstanding healthcare will be further improved. This $9.6 million project is receiving funding from both public and private partnerships.

The downtown hotel project is another major development in the works. The 10-story Marriott Courtyard connected to the Hotel Père Marquette in downtown Peoria is a $102 million project slated to open in 2013. The project was approved on May 25th by the Peoria City Council on a 7-4 vote. This means the Hotel Père Marquette will be renovated into a full-service hotel, and a 10-story Marriott Courtyard will be built adjacent to it. Construction is expected to begin soon, which, again, means additional jobs for the region. I firmly believe this project will spur additional commercial and retail development downtown and help bring more conventions, conferences and events to the region because we will have the hotel rooms available to support them.

And let’s not forget the downtown regional museum project. Each of these developments will bring increased revenue, jobs and people to our region. Development helps the economy and keeps us growing—let’s keep stepping up and moving ahead! iBi