Regional Planning Commission hires economic development expert

Tri-county panel plans to examine economic development in area

By CHRIS KAERGARD
of the Journal Star
Posted Dec 01, 2011 @ 10:45 PM

PEORIA —At a cost of $25,000, the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission will bring economic development expert Frank Knott back to town to spend the next several months working on recommendations on how area governments can better work together to attract business.

The unanimous vote to hire Knott, of Maryland-based ViTAL Economy, as a consultant, follows a vote by representatives of area governments in Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford counties last month that they’d like to see him return.

Knott made an initial presentation on the benefits of regional cooperation in October to about 60 area government leaders, economic development staffers and business people.

When he returns, Knott is expected to take “a two-phased approach” to his work, Tri-County Executive Director Terry Kohlbuss told commission members Thursday.

The first step involves what he called a “deep dive” into understanding the region’s economy and challenges facing it. This will likely include a Jan. 31 meeting, hosted by the Economic Development Council for Central Illinois, to discuss how they handle economic development projects and the reasons behind that process.

Afterward, in the second phase, Knott is expected to discuss in one-on-one or group meetings with area officials a series of questions, including what role they think the public sector should be playing in economic development and what changes need to be made. He’ll then present a series of recommendations.

Commission members stressed that they want to cooperate with the development council throughout the process.

“This is a very complex issue, and sometimes an outside facilitator can handle that quite well,” Economic Development Council President Vickie Clark told commissioners. “It’s going to be very critical for us to be on the same page.”

 Chris Kaergard can be reached at 686-3135 or ckaergard@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.

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