The “globalization” focus of this month’s iBi is most appropriate and timely. I’ll leave it to the scholars and other experts to define what exactly the word globalization means. But from the City of Peoria’s perspective—and in my experience as mayor—the process of international economic, governmental, business and social integration and interaction has been ongoing for a very long time. Modern technology has propelled the process to higher levels of intensity and velocity, shrinking the world to the touch of a keypad and leading to the term “globalization” as one of the buzzwords of this era.
But where does globalization begin? My answer is that it begins at home, and by “home,” I mean the hundreds of thousands of localities making up the 200 or so nations that constitute the global governmental and policy framework for the process. Peoria is one of those localities, of course. Home to a very mobile and diverse business, educational and healthcare services community, it’s the responsibility of Peoria city government to support it by providing modern, affordable, accessible and reliable public services. The ability of our citizens, employers and their employees to successfully interact and take advantage of globalization rests on a foundation of effective local government.
Peoria is investing significant time and resources into improving our ability to support the priorities of major players like Caterpillar, Komatsu, Bradley, ICC, the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, our dynamic medical centers and other employers in their recruitment, educational, research and business retention initiatives. These global players need good neighborhoods and retail services for their employees, and require the best educational opportunities available. They expect—and pay for through significant taxes—readily available public safety services, and rely on a hassle-free road infrastructure and a plentiful, safe water supply. Finally, they look for amenities such as cultural, recreational, entertainment and sports venues to round out the menu of what constitutes a world-class—“global,“ shall we say—community.
The City of Peoria is working very hard on these dimensions of a quality community. Our focus on neighborhood revitalization is a good place to start. In our older neighborhoods, we have launched an increased public safety presence through neighborhood policing with officers who actually reside in the neighborhood. Peoria’s growth management, code enforcement and inspections operations work to remove hazardous structures, encourage rehabilitation where feasible, and help local businesspeople sustain their presence in the neighborhoods. In addition, the City’s focus on economic development is bringing new life to places like the Warehouse District. With most of the work on Washington Street south of Main completed, an exciting, colorful neighborhood is emerging, featuring residential, retail, business and restaurant services. As it takes shape, we continue to witness new investment and interest.
Competitive, results-oriented public education is critical to Peoria’s obligation to be a stable and quality home for the global realities facing our employers and residents. That’s why the City partners with public schools whenever possible in matters of safety, neighborhood planning, economic development and other areas. And I will put in a plug for Peoria Promise, which is making a difference in many areas, motivating and supporting hundreds of high school students to stay in school and earn a scholarship to attend ICC, while helping to generate qualified, sharp young adults to enter the local labor market.
I am proud of Peoria’s reputation and our current initiatives to provide the very best professional fire and police services available anywhere. The Peoria Fire Department’s fire prevention, training and suppression efforts are without equal in communities of our size. The City’s emergency management function, located within the Fire Department, recently conducted a multi-agency, virtual reality training exercise related to a potentially devastating tornado emergency. The Peoria Police Department is a well-led, highly-principled group of dedicated law enforcement professionals who face different challenges in an urban environment like ours than those in other communities. For this reason, in addition to the neighborhood resident officers previously mentioned, the department places a huge priority on working with other law enforcement agencies at the county and state levels to deter crime and provide a secure, stable community.
We’re making progress on infrastructure improvement and maintenance; our largest restraint is, of course, financial. While the City is committed to living within its means, major improvements throughout Peoria are testament to our infrastructure obligations. I already mentioned the outstanding work in the Warehouse District, and I will certainly reference the Main and University intersection and other improvements near Bradley University, where a balance between pedestrian and vehicular traffic has been achieved, within the limits of geography and finances. Further north, street improvements on Northmoor between Knoxville and University are another significant accomplishment. More to do? You bet! And the work will continue.
Finally, we round out the City’s obligations to support globalization and its dimensions of worldwide integration and interaction through our economic development efforts. This is especially visible as more venues for cultural, recreational, entertainment and sports activities present themselves. The Peoria Riverfront is increasingly popular as an entertainment venue, complementing Dozer Park, the Peoria Civic Center, Peoria Riverfront Museum and Caterpillar Visitors Center, the beautiful Marriott Pere Marquette and Courtyard hotels, and our plans for the Madison block. It’s also a major coup for Peoria to have the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex taking shape between Route 91 and Orange Prairie Road near the Shoppes at Grand Prairie.
All of this suggests the City of Peoria is a major player in the globalization process and realities of today’s economic, business and technological advances. Indeed, globalization begins at home… and we’ll do our part to secure an even larger footing on the global stage for our diverse and dynamic community. iBi