A Publication of WTVP

At the beginning of the year, the Economic Development Council for Central Illinois (EDC) launched a bold new initiative to increase community involvement and successful development strategies. The results of this program were the Economic Development Growth Experts (EDGE) and 10 industry-specific strategy groups: Technology Commercialization, Intermodal Logistics, Healthcare Services, Energy, Agri-business & Agri-Science, Visitor Based Economy, Retail, Specialized Manufacturing, Professional & Technical Services and Global Trade. The EDGE is a group of business and community leaders who represent a cross-section of the region and are experienced in examining and implementing policy. The strategy groups are populated with technical experts on the front lines of growth and development in their respective industries, as well as volunteers interested in these fields.

Presentations from three successful strategy groups were made to EDGE in April. These successful groups included PeoriaNEXT (technology commercialization); Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway (visitor-based economy); and TransPORT (intermodal logistics). They demonstrate how successful strategy groups of this kind can be for our region. The recent opening of the PeoriaNEXT Innovation Center and the federal designation of the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway are examples of initiatives which have already been accomplished. Due to the initiatives of community economic development leaders by creating TransPORT, we have a Heart of Illinois Regional Port District to increase commercialization related to the Illinois River. We look forward to future accomplishments from these already-successful strategy groups.

In June, we held the first meeting of the new strategy groups, and over 100 volunteers offered their expertise to develop economic development strategies. Groups have been meeting on a monthly basis since then. The research and knowledge these groups provide will be presented to EDGE, who will then analyze and tweak proposals before making recommendations to the EDC board of directors.

This past August, EDGE reviewed the first three strategy group presentations. Specialized Manufacturing, Professional/Technical Services and Retail groups all made excellent presentations to EDGE citing their initial progress and proposed strategies and were given constructive feedback by the board. We are impressed with the efforts of these volunteers and anticipate successful results for economic development. Not only have we been able to engage the community in a greater discussion of economic development, but we are researching the metrics and trends that will allow us to form comprehensive economic development strategies for each of our region’s targeted industries.

Economic development is truly a community effort and we are thankful for everyone who has volunteered their time to take part in EDGE and the strategy groups. If you are interested in becoming a member of a strategy group, contact Beth Kolowski at (309) 495-5973 for more information. IBI