Congratulations to everyone who helped “Build the Block.” This community can’t thank enough the leadership of Caterpillar, the Museum Collaboration Group, and now the Peoria Riverfront Museum Board for working so diligently and never losing sight of this vision. The unions played a tremendous role, and Tom O’Neill, chair of the Peoria County Board, has been unwavering in his commitment to see this project through. City officials were very patient. There are so many people who contributed to “Build the Block,” it’s impossible to name them all. I trust each one will take a moment to reflect on their individual contributions, a moment for being proud.

One of the remaining issues is the completion of the private fundraising campaign. Now that the project is officially going forward and groundbreaking has taken place, I am optimistic that the private fundraising dollars will be raised. It has been very difficult to raise the remaining dollars without knowing if the project was actually going to be built; it was not unreasonable for donors to wait until they knew where their dollars were going. There are numerous individuals who expressed their willingness to commit to the Peoria Riverfront Museum, but not until it was very clear that the project was going to be built. I trust those individuals who have expressed their commitment to support the project once they knew it was a “go” will honor their verbal commitments. It is hard to disagree that this project will put a new face on the Peoria Riverfront and shape the future of the Greater Peoria Area.

In my new role as chair of The Heartland Partnership, the parent organization to the CEO Roundtable, Economic Development Council and Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, among other organizations, I believe it is time to start looking at how we build on the more than $1 billion of capital investments in our community. What are our plans going to be for the next decade? What are the key projects? What can we do to build the arts community? What commitments need to be made to the educational community to train, recruit and educate the necessary workforce that will keep our medical community, Caterpillar, Peoria NEXT and our research activities thriving for the next 10, 20 and 30 years? What type of businesses, enterprises and activities need to be developed that will leverage the $1 billion capital investment in our region?

It is very important for our region to celebrate and look back with pride on what we have accomplished during the past 10 years. It is nothing short of amazing. It is equally important now to look forward and get excited about the new opportunities and potential that building on the last decade can bring. iBi