Two local companies, two important announcements…
On February 20th, Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman announced that Caterpillar would be staying in downtown Peoria. This is important news to the downtown, the City of Peoria and the entire region. The announcement that Caterpillar’s global corporate headquarters will remain in Peoria included a preview of its 31-acre campus on the riverfront and corporate headquarters, with its signature three towers overlooking the Illinois River to the east, downtown to the west and the Warehouse District to the south.
A Vision to Realize
An important aspect of this decision—which too often goes unnoticed—is that Caterpillar asked for no special incentives to maintain its presence in central Illinois. Several other states offered the company incentives in excess of $200 million to relocate there, and it could have extracted similar concessions from state and local governments, but chose not to. Caterpillar has made a commitment to invest and act as a catalyst for other development in Peoria, which will revitalize the downtown and create a vibrant urban destination. It is up to the entire community to capitalize on this investment by seeking opportunities in the downtown that will help realize this vision.
In watching video of the digital fly-through, one can easily envision the future of Peoria’s downtown. Many of the 3,200 Caterpillar employees working in the new headquarters building will be living a few blocks to the south, on SW Washington Street in the Warehouse District. These employees—together with others who also work downtown and have chosen to live in the Warehouse District—will be able to walk, bike or take advantage of hop-on/hop-off downtown shuttle buses for their short commute to work. They will be living in an attractive urban community with all the amenities such density provides, including restaurants offering a wide variety of international cuisines, diverse entertainment options, a vibrant arts community and state-of-the-art infrastructure.
Catalyzing the Future
This brings us to our second company and its important announcement. iTV-3, a local company committed to this area, announced that Peoria’s Warehouse District will be the first in the region to have gigabit-speed internet service.
Peoria will be one of the first 60 communities in the country with a 100-percent fiber-optic connection to the home and business infrastructure, capable of speeds 100 times the national average. This will provide the Warehouse District with a competitive advantage in marketing to businesses seeking state-of-the-art internet service, as well as residents who expect the same level of service when they return home.
Research firms and high-tech startup companies can now find reasonably-priced accommodations in a warehouse/loft atmosphere that promotes collaboration with other young professionals, with an entrance ramp to the fastest internet highway in the world: 100-percent fiber optic, with speeds up to one gigabit per second (Gbps). Think of it this way: while your competitors are traveling 70 miles an hour on their information highway, you’ll be traveling 7,000 mph on yours. It’s just another reason we live, work and play in the downtown.
Which brings me back to the beginning. When Caterpillar announced the results of its headquarters study, one of its stated objectives was that the investment would be a catalyst for a revitalized downtown and the creation of a vibrant urban destination. Caterpillar’s invitation to other businesses in the region, like iTV3, is to join them in investing in our downtown, so we can build a better future for the entire region.
The city in which our children will live, work and play is being built today. The question is: Who is building it?
Let us build it, let it be Peoria, and let us begin today—starting, as always, where we can. iBi
Michael J. Freilinger is president and CEO of the Downtown Development Corporation of Peoria.