A Publication of WTVP

Reflecting on the last few months in my new role as Chief Operating Officer of the Economic Development Council for Central Illinois, I feel compelled to share with you the increasing excitement I have about the strategic plans for our region’s economic growth.

While I had anticipated the opportunity to build collaborations throughout the region by connecting skill sets of staff, community leaders, public entities and the private sector—an added bonus has been to obtain a greater understanding of the Heartland Partnership, its family of companies and affiliate organizations.

After December’s snowstorm, an appropriate metaphor comes to mind. An individual snowflake, while intricately unique and beautiful, easily melts away. However, if snowflakes combine, they can become much stronger—sometimes even stopping traffic. Greater yet is the strength of an iceberg—a cohesive, condensed version of “collaborative” snowflakes—that creates its own path and has the strength to move mountains.

I see the Heartland Partnership as this “iceberg.” And, like an iceberg, what I understood about the organization before coming here was only what I saw on the surface. Having the connection with the many autonomous but cohesive partners offers a greater avenue for the concentrated effort of regional economic development.

Whether the EDC is facilitating growth and expansion of existing businesses or pursuing new jobs and businesses, we’re able to select just the right combination of representatives to help in that pursuit. For instance, the companies we pursue are impressed with our one-stop-shop approach. The team at the table with our staff includes city and county economic development staff, Workforce Development, Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity and business representatives. Our support system includes elected officials, corporate leaders, bankers, real estate developers, venture capitalists and more. Agency support includes assistance with government contracts, small business loans, revolving loans, federal grants—the list goes on.

This month, the EDC’s new organizational structure will engage a far-reaching, inclusive, grass-roots effort to strengthen our diverse, economic-development focus. Strategy groups for 10 economic focuses will be formed to develop recommendations for industry growth. The groups include: technology commercialization, intermodal logistics, healthcare services, energy, agribusiness and agriscience, tourism, retail, specialized manufacturing, professional and technical services and global trade. These groups will have an opportunity to present their recommendations to EDGE (Economic Development Growth Experts)—a diverse group of 40 leaders, including representatives from investors, municipal and county governments and stakeholders. Ultimately, the policies included in our future strategies will be generated through communication with these groups. If you’re interested in being a part of the EDGE strategy, please contact us.

As I look toward 2007, I know every effort made will be exponentially stronger because of this collaborative, regional approach that thrives in “Suite 300.” We look forward to working with you. IBI