Mayor Jim Ardis has been promoting the need for various organizations and entities involved in economic development to come together to coordinate their activities. Through better coordination and collaboration, realized synergies could drive economic development initiatives for years to come.
Consequently, under the leadership of Councilman George Jacob, the first meeting of the Economic Development Task Force took place on July 18. Those in attendance included Craig Hullinger, economic development director for the City of Peoria (and several of his staff); Jim McConoughey of the Heartland Partnership; Roberta Parks of the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce; Steve Powell, president of the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau; Ray Lees, chairman of the City of Peoria Planning Commission; Pat Sullivan from the Warehouse District Commission; and myself, representing the Peoria Civic Federation.
After Councilman Jacob called the meeting to order and walked through the purpose of this task force, each individual outlined the priorities of their respective entities, their current action plans being implemented, and thoughts and ideas concerning the future.
It was quite impressive to hear all of the activities currently in motion. In particular, one idea that appears to be gaining momentum—and one I’m particularly supportive of—is regional branding. The Heartland Partnership, City of Peoria, and Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau are beginning initial discussions on this important initiative. There was a strong consensus that a regional branding we could support would send a very clear and consistent message not only to the greater Peoria region, but to all of our external constituencies. There appeared to be much excitement about the day when a common theme would unite us.
There will be regularly scheduled meetings of the Economic Development Task Force. The ability to coordinate efforts of the city staff and other entities without duplicating resources should help us achieve our mutual objectives in a more timely fashion.
From the perspective of the Renaissance Park Commission, it’s clear we’re considered to be an integral part of the bigger picture of the greater Peoria area. There’s no dispute about the commitment to create a 21st century knowledge economy. The leadership of Peoria NEXT and various institutions involved, and enhancing the physical environment of the Renaissance Park are both seen as instrumental to the future of Peoria. Recently, the district held a day of open houses where 17 homes within the district were open to the public—and two homes were sold as a result of this effort. This is very exciting news as property values in the Renaissance Park District are increasing and there’s renewed interest in the district.
Members of the Neighborhood Advisory Council and the Neighborhood Associations should be commended for their continuous efforts to rebuild this area of Peoria. Congratulations to them and to the individuals who are making the Renaissance Park District a wonderful area to live, work, play, and learn. IBI