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A Publication of WTVP

The Big Table: A Debriefing

A community-wide collaboration encourages you to join the conversation, get involved and take action.

by Audrey Kamm, CEO Council |
Data snapshot of the Big Table

The Big Table: Greater Peoria—held on Tuesday, October 15, 2019—was an exciting day and important opportunity for our region to dive into the real issues facing our communities. Throughout the day, more than 700 people from across central Illinois participated in discussions centered around workforce development and education, quality of life and place, innovation and entrepreneurship, and diversity and inclusion. Planning for this inaugural event began about nine months in advance, when the members of various community organizations gathered together around a single goal: uniting our region.

ACollaborative Effort
The Business Champions—a committee of the CEO Council focused primarily on business and talent attraction—spent the first part of 2019 meeting with area businesses and business leaders. Through these meetings, several themes emerged as challenges to the local economy. These themes would became the four topic areas of The Big Table: Greater Peoria. 

After researching the success of similar discussions held in other cities, leaders in our community were intrigued. With that in mind, the CEO Council reached out to regional partners working in the areas of community development, quality of life and economic development to see if they would be interested in partnering on this new and exciting project. The response was overwhelming! It was quickly apparent that this concept and the four identified topic areas were not only relevant to business and talent attraction, but to the well-being of our region at large. 

In the end, more than a dozen organizations officially partnered to make The Big Table: Greater Peoria a success. They include the Black Business Alliance Peoria Chapter, CEO Council, East Peoria Chamber of Commerce, Enjoy Peoria, Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois, Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce, Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, Peoria Heights Chamber of Commerce, Peoria Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Morton Chamber of Commerce, Morton Economic Development Council and Washington Chamber of Commerce. Their steadfast dedication made this event a regional collaboration unlike any other. 

Numerous other entities also shared their support, including local businesses leaders, schools and educators, nonprofit organizations, government officials and many more. Rounding out the leadership was a diverse group of 108 trained table facilitators from across the region who helped make the day a huge success with their willingness to engage and support a table of their peers.

The true success of this event could be measured by the palpable energy in the room that filled every person in attendance with an overwhelming tenor of positivity and an optimistic vision for the future. Each of them showed up for their community and made it clear just how deeply they care about the future of our region. Community members came to the table ready to talk about tough issues and strategize the possibility and opportunity for our region and its future. 

Data snapshot of the Big Table

Results… and Next Steps
On February 18, 2020, The Big Table released the results from the event. Dr. Larry Weinzimmer, Caterpillar Inc. Professor of Strategic Management at Bradley University, and his team gathered and analyzed data derived from surveys, common themes from over 1,000 posterboards, and numerous video testimonials. The full report, produced by Peoria Magazines, is available online at bigtablegp.com

“Quantitative results from the participant surveys and qualitative results from table discussions provided us key insights into regional perspectives,” Dr. Weinzimmer explained. “This information will be pivotal in creating a strategic plan for the Peoria-area region.” In fact, the collected data will feed directly into the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, which is currently being created. 

“The data released will provide a tool for people, organizations and businesses to leverage for meaningful discussions informing action steps and regional collaboration,” adds Leigh Ann Brown, executive director of the Morton Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council. “The framework of The Big Table can be used at many levels to move our region and people forward.”

Due to the overwhelming response, future Big Table events are planned to continue generating feedback, ideas and actions. “The Big Table event was an amazing gathering of citizens who care about our region,” notes Chris Setti, CEO of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, “but it was never intended to be just a one-day event.” 

So, if you were unable to join us last year, there will be another opportunity this fall, with more information to be released soon. Get ready for an even bigger table to be set in October 2020!

In the meantime, The Big Table will continue to share stories and exchange ideas and initiatives via the website, and the community at large is encouraged to get involved. With so much happening in our region and so many organizations already doing great work, there are many ways to become involved with events and initiatives centered on The Big Table themes. This website will continually be updated with upcoming initiatives and events, and community members are free to submit events or initiatives that fall in line with these efforts. You can also sign up to receive regular updates. 

Moving our region forward will take the entire community. We hope this effort has encouraged and inspired you to join the conversation, get involved and take action. PM

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