As the relatively new economic development director for the City of Chillicothe, I was excited to take on this challenge to grow in my profession. I have found my previous experience in the City of Peoria’s Economic Development Department to be a great advantage for my role here in Chilli, where not only are we looking at business attraction, we are focused on business retention. From collaboration meetings to local development, the community is working together to improve business and quality of life.
To begin, in April we started an initiative called Tuesday Mornings Business Connection. Held the first Tuesday of every month from 7:30 to 8:30am at City Hall, these meetings provide an opportunity for business owners large and small to share their concerns and ideas on how we can collaborate to help grow the city’s business climate. Among the topics we discuss are issues or barriers that hinder growth, factors that will help sustain business, and how we can collectively market each other’s businesses in the community. It also provides an opportunity outside of city council meetings to have face time with the mayor, police chief, fire chief, economic development director, public works superintendent and zoning officer—a sort of “one-stop shop” to address the community’s business needs and connect with others in the business community.
Along with a more open dialogue, Chillicothe is looking to attract and retain business through new development. Additions in our historic downtown business district and riverfront area are expected to improve economic interest and community engagement. The downtown business district is becoming a magnet for antique goers, with three large, existing antique stores and another soon to open. The new store will also feature an attached auction house, which is expected to draw even more business—and dollars—to the community and boost the local economy.
Likewise, riverfront development continues to progress, with the addition of playground equipment at Cutright Park and the construction of new docks and pavilions to be in place this fall. In the future, we hope to attract a marina, along with gas pumps, which will encourage boaters to stop and spend an afternoon in the downtown area, which is just two blocks away. We would also like to attract more small specialty shops downtown, as well as on Route 29. Specifically, an ice cream shop and a bakery would work well near our town theater, where there is a free movie offered every Friday night.
The City of Chillicothe uses its two TIF districts to assist and encourage redevelopment in two areas of the city. The first area is described as the Central Business District TIF, which covers the downtown and riverfront areas. The second is known as the Plaza TIF, located along a section of Route 29. Both TIF districts have great space available for a business to move right in.
Being just six miles from Route 6 and 40 miles from I-80, where the river and railroad (BNSF) meet, Chillicothe offers plenty of opportunities for economic development. If you are looking for a place to do business, consider Chillicothe. You will like what you see. iBi
Rachael Parker is economic development director for the City of Chillicothe and a member of the Peoria County Board.