Advocacy. Technical training and job preparedness. New business attraction and job creation. Growth and retention of existing business. Recruitment and retention of talent. Quality of life and place… These areas of focus are not unique to Greater Peoria, nor are they unique to a dedicated group of business leaders whose collective vision is to promote a climate conducive to entrepreneurship, commerce and growth—and make Greater Peoria a top mid-sized region in America. That being said, they are at the top of the priority list when it comes to making progressive, impactful change in our community.

Fresh from creating the Downtown Development Corporation (DDC) in 2014, the CEO Council and its members continue to engage in project-driven initiatives with measurable results that promote regional growth. This year, the CEO Council will launch four new projects aimed at making Greater Peoria a more vibrant business community. All still in their creative stages, these four projects remain committed to the notion that our community is poised to compete with peer Midwestern cities like Grand Rapids and the Quad Cities, and striving to resemble aspirational cities such as Des Moines, Madison and Lexington.

Employer-Student Partnership
The Work Experience Program aims to identify, encourage and assist area employers with providing 1,000 non-permanent jobs or work-based learning opportunities to high school and college students on a continuous basis for the purpose of developing job-related skills and attitudes. Employers will commit to providing students an environment that promotes an understanding of the importance of productivity, mentor the development of soft skills and self-confidence, and encourage ongoing education and training. In turn, students will commit to being punctual, productive and accountable, while possessing a positive attitude and willingness to learn. In addition to the benefits for our employers and students, the community profits by developing an educated and motivated workforce of high-quality, work-ready employees. This will aid Greater Peoria in both retaining and attracting business to our region.

Community Improvement
The Community Improvement Action Team seeks to enhance private and public participation in order to implement multiple quality-of-life and quality-of-place projects aligned with a strategic community improvement plan. This committee of the CEO Council will focus on creating teams tied to specific community projects that will assist in establishing a master plan for improvements, suggest and facilitate priorities among competing projects, provide resources such as seed capital and challenge grants, and champion state and federal participation to support project implementation. Enhancing quality of life and place in Greater Peoria promotes our ability to retain and attract young professionals.

Talent Recruitment
The Talent Hub Committee is exploring ways in which the community can leverage local resources and leadership to recruit skilled professionals to the Greater Peoria area. Collaboration will be essential as this committee reaches out to area businesses for feedback on recruitment practices, organizational needs and common obstacles to recruiting skilled professionals. The data will help drive this committee’s scope and goals as the CEO Council looks to assist the Greater Peoria EDC and surrounding communities in attracting young professionals and a skilled workforce to our area. This committee is also exploring the creation of a local data hub using best practices research from successful operations in neighboring states.

Objective Analysis
The goal of the Water Company Objective Study Group is to complete an objective, fact-based analysis to determine the costs and benefits associated with the City of Peoria exercising—or not exercising—its repurchase provision of the 1889 Franchise Agreement, and subsequent documentation, using internal and external expertise wherever available. Within its objective analysis, this study group of the CEO Council will consider the financial implication for the City, ratepayers and surrounding communities and investigate alternative ownership structures, infrastructure investments and service levels for customers, in addition to reviewing the potential impacts on the employees of Illinois American Water.

While the CEO Council represents the flexibility and independence of private business, we are deeply invested in collaborating with our community partners—especially our sister organization, the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce. Together with the Peoria Chamber, the Greater Peoria EDC, the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Downtown Development Corporation, we are collectively committed to moving the needle in a positive direction for our community. With Caterpillar’s headquarters announcement and RLI’s recent expansion news, the needle is starting to move. We are making Greater Peoria the place to live, work and play in the Midwest. iBi

Jim Lynch is president of the CEO Council. For more information, visit peoriabusiness.org.