On Thursday, November 29th, I made a presentation to the Peoria County Finance Committee on behalf of the CEO Roundtable (formerly Peoria Civic Federation) to support the development of the Peoria Riverfront Museum (PRM). My thanks go out to the Finance Committee for suggesting we pursue development of the PRM. Without their support, the Museum Square project would be facing long odds toward a successful conclusion.
While listening to the comments and conversations of members of the finance and other committees in attendance, what struck me was the lack of discussion and acknowledgement of the various components of the Museum Square project. This project is composed, first and foremost, of the Caterpillar Visitors Center and the Museum collaboration group, i.e. the Peoria Riverfront Museum, which includes the Peoria Historical Society, Peoria Riverfront Museum Society, African-American Hall of Fame Museum, Illinois High School Association and Lakeview Museum. Discussion was centered around funding for the PRM, as if it were the only component. From my perspective, however, the Caterpillar Visitors Center is the most important part of Museum Square.
The opportunity for the PRM exists solely because of Caterpillar’s commitment to support our community. Caterpillar has long communicated both publicly and privately that its Visitors Center will not be built unless the community commits to a PRM. Today, the total Museum Square cost is $127.7 million, of which 65 percent, or $83.6 million, is pledged and committed.
The opportunity to tie Caterpillar headquarters, the Caterpillar Visitors Center and Caterpillar operations to Peoria is extremely important and may not be fully understood by our community.
The opportunity to tie Caterpillar headquarters, the Caterpillar Visitors Center and Caterpillar operations to Peoria is extremely important and may not be fully understood by our community. For example, the Caterpillar Foundation recently announced a new funding mechanism that will put greater weight on all revenues being generated from around the world. Essentially, the Peoria area will see less support from the Caterpillar Foundation if the Foundation’s revenues do not grow. Local not-for-profit organizations are already anticipating a reduced commitment.
At some point in the future, perhaps 10 to 15 years from now, due to Caterpillar’s growing global operations, the company’s senior leadership and, ultimately, chairman, will come from the international community. In the foreseeable future, Caterpillar’s chairman will not be born in the United States, nor will all members of the senior executive team.
The Caterpillar Visitors Center is only a part, but a key part, of other items our community will need to address in the years ahead. As a community, we still need to improve schools, address concerns about crime and create a better living environment, especially downtown, since we will indeed be competing with larger cities around the world.
Can you imagine the hole in the center of downtown Peoria, as well as the image and perception of Peoria and its leadership, that will be created if the Caterpillar Visitors Center and Peoria Riverfront Museum are not built? When combined, these two entities have a great opportunity to be successful. The synergy and support between these two facilities can create a unique environment in downtown Peoria and enhance the quality of life in this area.
A happy and healthy 2008 to all! IBI