A Publication of WTVP

The New Year is officially here. When we think of the New Year, we think of New Year's resolutions and a clean slate. The New Year provides an opportunity to make changes for ourselves, our families, and our communities.

The beginning of the year can also be a good time to assess our patterns of giving. For many of us, giving is about the allocation of funds. The average American household spends money on necessities like housing, food, clothing, utilities, and the other regular expenses that are incurred in the cost of living today. From there, we distribute our money to investments, retirement funds, and long-term, value-added projects.

After each of these necessities has been taken care of, we all hope to have a little bit of money left over for our own discretion-our disposable income. This, too, is often earmarked even before it's available for spending. We have our religious affiliations, favored philanthropies, and of course, our well-deserved extra comforts.

We're fortunate to live in a society where these indulgences and the ability to give money to our chosen charities is a right and a privilege. In fact, giving is often considered a responsibility. Our challenge as good community stewards is to elevate the level of giving in our personal and professional allocation of funds.

There are a variety of worthwhile causes from which we can choose. To be earnest, economic development isn't the most glamorous of these options. There's rarely an immediate return, and it can be difficult to see the direct impact of one person's contribution.

If we gauge the value of economic development investment by its effect on our lives and the lives of our children, however, the value of such contributions is dramatically heightened. When we drill down to the heart of the matter, there's one concern shared by many of us-from the parent at the bus stop to the executive in the board room: Where will our children work? Our grandchildren? Will they have to move far away to support their families? Will they be able to find quality jobs here in central Illinois? Economic development is the means through which we insure our most valuable investments-our future and the futures of our children.

The strength of our economy is only as great as the strength of our community. Communities exist because, from the very earliest days in civilization, it's evident that the sum of the whole is greater than that of its individual parts. Strong communities act in concert to fortify the value of their investments.

Here in central Illinois, doors of opportunity are open all around us. The efforts of our regional organizations are producing worthwhile projects, each representing a perfect opportunity to make an investment in this community.

It's vital that these opportunities be seized. The future of this economy is dependent upon our citizens assessing our abundant resources and optimizing them-maximizing their potential. In this way, communities aren't all that dissimilar from businesses. We must understand our mission and vision and rally our resources collectively behind these understandings, leveraging their value against the long-term goal.

The goal of this community is to maintain high standards of living while driving economic growth and a prosperous business climate. We want jobs for our children and a future for our families. It's philanthropic giving with these goals in mind that will maximize the value of our investments. Donations of time, talent, and financial resources are the community's avenue to support the future of central Illinois.

The Heartland Partnership kicked off a marketing campaign last year at our annual meeting: "We Have It All." It's a very true statement indeed. We do have it all, and it's up to the "we" to maintain and enhance it all.

The EDC represents an opportunity for our community to leverage its resources behind the "we." Investment in the economic development ensures this generation and future generations are directing resources to the generation of new jobs and the strength of our local economy. The EDC and The Heartland Partnership organization ensure the prosperous business climate we enjoy today exists tomorrow and continues to grow in value.

We're entering into a critical time as the EDC and The Heartland Partnership organizations develop essential community projects like the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center. Local funds are also being called upon to lend strength to the efforts of The Heartland Partnership and its partner organizations as we develop and implement a regional positioning campaign focused on establishing this region as a competitive force in the global economy. These projects aren't simply new buildings, descriptive brochures, and integral Web sites. They're also real projects with real merit, contributing to the future of our economy and the jobs we plan to make available for our children.

This is our community, our economy, our jobs, and our children. We have it all, and it's our responsibility to sustain and advance our economic vitality. This holiday season-and throughout the New Year-we invite and challenge you to be a part of the "we" that makes it all possible. IBI