A Community Call to Action

InterBusiness Issues
By Jim Baumgartner
March 1, 2013

While it is probably too early to call the Focus Forward CI (FFCI) initiative a “success” after just eight months, an amazing group of people and organizations are making great strides in transforming our region’s overall economic development strategy. Henry Ford was right: getting the right individuals in the same room is a start, keeping them there is progress, but getting them to work together is where real progress is made and measured.

I have the honor of leading the Policy Steering Committee that is overseeing the Focus Forward CI effort, which includes representatives from Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford and Mason counties who come from various industries, demographics and market sectors. However, the real work that is getting done and the progress being made on multiple fronts to change the central Illinois region’s community economic development approach is due to the efforts of the FFCI action teams in collaboration with Frank Knott and his ViTAL Economy team, whose involvement is critical in transforming economic development with deliberate momentum.

You may be wondering, who is going to pay for all of this?

Right now, we are in the process of introducing a Collaborative Funding Plan to raise $3 million in each of the next five years from a variety of sources: public and private, not-for-profit sectors and monies from state and national grants, as well as unions and foundations. This will be a public-private partnership, in which we envision 60 percent of the funds will come from the private sector and 40 percent from the public sector (generally, municipalities and counties). It’s an investment in a proven economic development process, an investment in local job creation and an investment in ourselves. Knowing what is at stake and the potential return on investment, we are confident that individuals and organizations will step up to the challenge.

Already, companies like OSF, Methodist and Caterpillar have committed to making annual investments, as have firms like Kress Manufacturing and Excel Foundry. We haven’t been turned down yet in our fundraising, which shows the confidence people have in the process.

Focus Forward CI is about taking control of our destiny and doing it together for the greater good of the region, and leveraging everything it has to offer in the economic development space. While there are more than 1,000 regional leaders who are actively engaged in this effort, there is always room for more!

We are pumping new life into our economy by working together with a cross section of talents, public- and private-sector interests, and minority- and female-owned businesses. We have the momentum and the drive to make change happen. Let’s do it together! iBi

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