Happy New Year! It’s amazing to me that a simple turn of a calendar page can make the possibilities of new directions seem more real. Let’s face it, there is nothing stopping us from creating resolutions to eat better, exercise more, stop smoking or read more books in April or September. I could have joined that gym at any point last year, but waited until the first of the year to do so (but happy to report actually going all but two days since the beginning of the year). But January is for planning.
Greater Peoria EDC is in the midst of planning, too. Though our resolution for this year is to complete the work on a new Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), this is one we have been working on for over six months. As a reminder, the CEDS is a five-year strategy for how we will grow the regional economy. Our current CEDS, called Focus Forward Central Illinois, was crafted in the last decade (weird to say!) and “expires” in 2020. You can review that CEDS here. The CEDS process is managed by a strategy team made up of a broad cross section of stakeholders from across the region. This includes representatives from each county, from various industries like agriculture, health and manufacturing, and by other regional organizations like Tri-County Regional Planning and Illinois Central College.
You might not have heard of CEDS but you might have already helped in its development. In October, hundreds of you gathered at the Peoria Civic Center for the Big Table. Or maybe you’ve participated in one of the satellite Big Table: Rural Matters events that have or will be held in Havana, Metamora, Delevan, Brimfield and Lincoln. Those events were all about conversations about our region — both its present and its future. Those conversations have fueled the work of the CEDS Strategy Team as they work to develop a set of goals and strategies for the future. You will see the thoughts you shared there, the ideas you discovered for improving our region, and your hopes for progress reflected in the final strategy.
Though the work has been underway for some time, there is one aspect that kicked off just a few days ago. While the goals, strategies and actions in the CEDS serve as the backbone of the work Greater Peoria EDC does each year in areas like business attraction and workforce solutions. But in reality, the CEDS should be a strategy for all of us, not just the Greater Peoria EDC. In early January we sent out a call to the counties, cities, towns, educational institutions and key nonprofit organizations asking them to share with us their strategic plans. We want to understand what other organizations are taking on as their priorities. For example, Greater Peoria EDC does not have any programming around our “visitor economy” (tourism, conventions, sporting events, etc.) but we know it is a significant part of our economic success.
By understanding the strategies of our friends at Enjoy Peoria and incorporating them into a larger, regional strategy, we can better work together toward a shared goal. The same could be said about Tri-County Regional Planning Commission’s Long Term Transportation Plan, United Way’s Community Impact Fund or CareerLink’s Regional and Local Plan, just to name a few.
My mom often said, “Many hands make light work.” Well, economic development is never light work, no matter how many hands, but we will be more successful when we are all working together. That is why we have nicknamed the CEDS the “plan of plans.” To be relevant and useful, it needs to reflect the broad work of many people and organizations and coordinate those efforts.
Be on the lookout for more opportunities to provide input on the CEDS as we get closer to finalizing the plan. Our goal is for completion and adoption by each of our five counties by the summer of 2020.