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A Publication of WTVP

It’s exciting to see so many positive activities taking place in central Illinois. In the recent past, it’s often seemed as though we spent a lot of time reviewing strategic goals, planning, and communicating an enhanced vision for the community. Now it seems as though every day, as we hear good economic news from the area, we can look back and see good planning and proper stewardship makes for good outcomes. 

It isn’t hard to see how establishing a higher level of community pride and ownership is absolutely vital to generating economic growth in this region. A group of our community leaders found this to be true on a visit to Louisville, Ky., as part of Mayor Ransburg’s Vision 2020 Economic Development Taskforce. When the citizens of Louisville discovered a reporter had referred to the city as a “sleepy little city,” they weren’t just surprised, but truly outraged that this reporter had such a misperception about their community. What is it Louisville has that the city’s residents were able to rally around with awareness and pride? How was this city able to turn its population into a giant cheering squad? 

The Peoria area isn’t Louisville. It’s not St. Louis, Madison, Lansing, or Indianapolis either. What central Illinois does have, however, is something much rarer. We have a unique combination of strengths and resources coming together now in a way we’ve never seen before. We have the research. We have the education, the business, the culture, and the leadership. Most importantly, we have the community support and institutional collaboration completely unique to this region. 

Those who attended the collaborative annual meeting last month, hosted by the Economic Development Council and the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, were able to see the reality of this combination in an exciting and energizing way. The significance behind this collaborative event was great, and the message was one of tremendous magnitude. This year’s annual meeting focused on enlightenment, discovery, potential, and realization. Our goal was to awaken the people of central Illinois—both those who have lived here their whole lives and those who are new to the area. The event’s mission was to send our participants back to work at the end of the luncheon feeling surprised, enlightened, proud, and even humbled that they didn’t know all the region has to offer. 

The message wasn’t contained only in the annual meeting, however. The message is alive in the form of an attractive and sharp annual report, which has a purpose much deeper than just to provide reading material to the participants at the meeting. 

The annual report will be distributed throughout the year as the EDC works with prospects, leads, and site selectors from throughout the United States and beyond. The report takes our message to investors and constituents throughout the Midwest. The report communicates the tremendous assets and partnerships driving central Illinois to legislators, policy makers, and community leaders. 

Creating this heightened awareness and pride is part of the mission of the Heartland Partnership. It’s vital to the success of many initiatives of community agencies and organizations of all kinds, including the Economic Development Council and the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce. From an economic development perspective, this sense of community is of immense value as we continue to generate growth in central Illinois. 

What the EDC would like to emphasize, as we move forward from the annual meeting and head into this new fiscal year, is there’s a strategic responsibility out there for each and every one of us to take ownership for driving further growth and prosperity in central Illinois. This responsibility is present in many ways, but one of the most fundamental of these responsibilities is to spread the word. Spread the message about what we have here. Communicate the vibrance and richness our community has. Share the story with those who live near and those who live far away. 

This is our time to shine. We need to get out there and tell people what we know about this great place to live, learn, work, and play. We have to turn “I had no idea” into “We have it all.” 

For a copy of the Economic Development Council and Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Report, call 495-5955 or e-mail [email protected]. IBI

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