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A Publication of WTVP

The EDC recently published and distributed our annual report. The report, titled “Central Illinois Works,” had a different emphasis from those of previous years. One of the goals of the report was to illustrate the benefits of operating in the tri-county area. Through the pictures and stories of three area businesses, the report paints a picture of the business climate of central Illinois.

There is another annual report published by the EDC that depicts the business climate through different means, however. And while it may not be as glossy or pictorial in promoting the area to the outside world, Business Retention Reports do serve as an invaluable tool to both the EDC and the community.

The Business Retention Program is an EDC program in which staff members visit various businesses in the tri-county area to discuss business needs and requirements, in addition to the views of the companies on area strengths and weaknesses.

This year 69 companies were surveyed. The surveys yielded many interesting numbers, including:

The first of these points is good news, indicating growth and expansion among the organizations surveyed. The second two points, however, reinforce the messages we’ve been reading about in the 21st Century Workforce Study and similar findings of area business groups.

The news isn’t a surprise, but it does illustrate the importance of the business retention program. It’s easy to theorize about the current business climate, but without actually speaking with members of the business community itself (including both large and small companies) the theories are hard to act upon. The business retention visits allow the EDC to find out first-hand what resources the businesses need, what they expect to see in the next year, and what challenges they’re facing. This information better equips us to deal with issues such as workforce development and training.

The usefulness of the program extends beyond that of the direct interaction between the EDC and the client. The client also completes a survey from which data is entered into the Synchronist software program, a data analysis tool purchased by the EDC. Synchronist analyzes the information and compiles reports for each county. The EDC then publishes these reports for each county, in addition to the City of Peoria. While the reports aren’t glossy and picture-filled, they fill a very important need.

Beyond the reports’ obvious value to the development staff at the EDC, they usually prove to be very useful to officials and administrators from various levels of government as well. For example, officials can see where businesses identified improvements in the community, and where they feel improvement is necessary.

The information compiled in the retention reports has the potential to have a substantial impact on the economic development of the tri-county area. The opinions and insights of area business leaders are directly communicated to EDC staff and government officials in a straightforward, applicable format. The Business Retention Program offers businesses the opportunity to have their voice heard in a uniquely candid manner.

For more information, call 495-5956. IBI

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