A Publication of WTVP

After months of discussion and visits to other cities, Mayor David Ransburg soon will outline the economic development strategies resulting from the Greater Peoria Vision 20/20 Economic Development Task Force, as one component of the Greater Peoria Vision 20/20. One of the outcomes of this task force's report will be three over-arching grand economic development strategies for the region.

The implementation of this plan now becomes critical. Who will be the leader(s) to implement these strategies?

With the resignation of Dave Dobson as director of Economic Development for the City of Peoria, this presents a unique opportunity to consolidate the economic development leadership into one leader-to speak with one voice.

A suggestion would be that the Heartland Partnership, in particular Jim McConoughey as its CEO, would be the responsible entity and person accountable for implementing and achieving the economic development strategies as outlined by the task force. This would mean the City of Peoria would agree to support the economic development strategies through the Heartland Partnership and wouldn't need to hire an economic development director for Peoria. The city would continue to financially support the Heartland Partnership with performance measures and outcomes that would justify its expenditures over a reasonable timeframe-for example, three years. This would be less than what's being spent on the position currently. In addition, a search process would take months and could hamper implementation efforts at such a critical juncture. This would enable the new city manager to focus on key municipal issues.

This suggestion is modeled after Louisville, Ky.-one of the cities visited. Louisville has delegated its economic development role to Greater Louisville, Inc., which is similar to our Heartland Partnership. Louisville has one location for economic development activities and one organization accountable for achieving results. Anyone who visited Louisville can tell you how impressive it was that all of the key organizations and their leaders "sang from the same hymnal." Clearly, there was no question as to what the plans and strategies were for the City of Louisville, as well as the goals or the leadership. They spoke with one voice.

If this suggestion was adopted, the City of Peoria would still have a significant role in assuring the zoning, building permit, and other regulatory processes were administered timely and effectively so business generation could occur. Streamlining the bureaucratic and regulatory process to encourage business development will take a considerable effort, especially since the perception exists in the business community that the city isn't business friendly. Hopefully, the business community and the city could encourage Peoria County to participate.

The business community should be responsible for economic development and its implementation, with cooperation and support from appropriate governmental entities. We can't and shouldn't expect governmental agencies to be the leaders in creating new businesses. It's our role. IBI