A Publication of WTVP

Many of you were in the audience when I delivered my 13th State of the City Address a few weeks ago. While news reports captured some of the high points, media space and airtime do not permit comprehensive coverage. Thankfully, iBi presents an excellent forum to mention some important points for those who could not attend. And permit me to offer a “tip of the hat” to iBi as they enter their 29th year. This publication was founded to offer a substantive source of relevant news to the business community and larger citizenry who benefit from economic growth and development.

When I address the “State of the City,” my emphasis is not limited to City Hall. I am focused—especially this year—on the larger dynamics that make our community a vibrant, living, changing entity of people, places, events, challenges and successes. Here are five words I believe illustrate our community as we embark on 2018: resilience, innovation, strength, quality and collaboration.

Peoria is, above all else, resilient and persevering. After my 2017 address—which began with the sobering news of Caterpillar’s headquarters move to the Chicago area—who would have thought that we would be cheering a great recovery one year later? The announcement by OSF to establish its headquarters right in the middle of downtown Peoria is a blessing and a huge relief. And it could not have happened without Caterpillar’s cooperation in making available the Chase Bank building block.

You probably didn’t hear or see this in the media, but the 2018 Mayor’s Outstanding Community Service Award was presented to OSF HealthCare. I believe that superlative community support deserves public recognition and acclaim, and for that reason I began the award presentation in 2013.

Other solid examples of resilience mentioned in my address include the continued growth within and adjacent to the Warehouse District. Many of the new ventures located there are small in terms of employees, but huge in stature, excitement and promise.

Peoria is in the midst of an innovation boom. I mentioned no fewer than 13 innovative startups, from AutonomouStuff to Virtusense Technologies. You may have read about them in the January issue of iBi, and they also deserve attention and support.

Besides highlighting the work of AutonomouStuff on autonomous vehicles, I also spoke about AppsCo. This not-for-profit organization provides a fully integrated business learning experience for public school students. AppsCo is underway at Richwoods High School, and recognition is due Alexis Khazaam for originating the concept. Innovation is also occurring within our healthcare organizations, at Bradley University and the University Of Illinois College Of Medicine Peoria, and throughout the community. In a city our size, continued innovation is the key to growth and quality development.

Peoria’s strength comes in many forms, and two that I highlighted in my address were Peoria Promise and Buy Local 365. At first glance, they may seem dissimilar, but in reality they are seamless.

Peoria Promise helps kids—more than 1,400 thus far in its 10 years of existence—achieve a quality college education. The vast majority of these young adults (89%) stay in the Peoria area to work, begin their families, and participate in the larger economy.

And the larger economy thrives when we shop at local stores and places of business. Shopping local not only provides employment for thousands of our fellow citizens, it provides needed revenue that stays local… and supports critical public services.

Quality—in terms of product, service, availability, affordability, access, safety and dependability—underpin a community’s basic character. In this regard, I focused on the quality of air service provided by the General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport in my address. Last year, over 635,000 passengers utilized the airport and its daily nonstop service to the five most connected airports in the U.S. I want to thank Gene Olson and his board for working hard to provide this vital service. And while on the subjects of quality and transportation, I also mentioned the outstanding leadership of Bradley Professor Dr. Amir Al-Khafaji in organizing the Innovations in Construction, Asphalt and Transportation Conference. This is the 31st year of bringing together industry experts to discuss, explore and further achievement in infrastructure design, construction and funding. As a reminder, Dr. Al-Khafaji was the recipient of the 2017 Mayor’s Outstanding Community Service Award.

Finally, I mention collaboration as a timely, descriptive term for Peoria in 2018. I want to once again thank Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Jeff Griffin for his outstanding performance and support. Certainly the impact and reach of the mayor’s office has its limits; ultimately, I am one of 11 members of the Peoria City Council. The Council has worked through some tough budgetary and policy issues, and has done so in an environment of transparency and mutual respect. I will continue to do my part as we move ahead this year.

I will close with a paraphrase of my State of the City conclusion. Here’s to a strong, safe and blessed year. God’s blessings to all, and my heartfelt thanks for what you do to make our community the best it can be. iBi