October 25, 2022

Big October

As you are going to see in the newsletter items below, October was a big (!!) month for Greater Peoria EDC and its collaborative partners. Over the course of three consecutive weeks we co-hosted CareerSpark for over 4,000 students, organized a “familiarization tour” of the region for three site selectors, and helped to put on the Big Table community conversation attended by about 500 citizens. And all of that was on top of our “normal” work of helping steer the region toward greater economic success. Part of that “normal” work is preparing our annual report for the US Economic Development Administration, one of our funders. I sometimes dread writing this report, but mostly because I’m a chronic procrastinator (I’ve known these reports are due on October 30, 2022 since October 31, 2022…if not earlier). But the reports also give me a chance to sit back and think about all the great work we have done.

Each October, I get to write two reports. The first is our Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) annual report. Briefly, CEDS is a federally approved five-year roadmap that helps guide the region in its work toward economic goals. Our most recently approved strategy, the Big Table CEDS 2021-2025, was adopted by GPEDC’s board of directors in March 2021. The CEDS outlines a variety of strategies in four broad goal areas focussed on job creation, workforce development, quality of life, and natural resources. Those strategies were developed from the input gathered from our first Big Table in 2019 and the follow-up online versions in 2020. Some people deride planning documents like this because they think they are just “put on a shelf,” never to be referenced or acted upon until it is time to update the plan. But our region takes the Big Table CEDS very seriously. A broad committee of local stakeholders meets regularly to check in on progress and help identify opportunities for improvement and adjustment. The annual report is intended to check in on each of the strategies to catalog the activities that were undertaken, analyze their effectiveness, and outline some plans for the next twelve months. I’d invite you to read how we are doing as a region and give me your thoughts on our progress. You can read the full annual report here or a “snapshot” report here.

The second report is more specific to the work of GPEDC. The annual report outlines the progress and activities of the strategy itself, regardless of who does it. But this report asks GPEDC to report the work it has done to advance the strategy. One thing I love about GPEDC is that it is a unique mixture of economic development planning and economic development practice. In nearly every other community in the nation, those functions are handled by separate organizations that don’t necessarily work together. In Greater Peoria, the “practicing” part of GPEDC draws its work plan directly from the Big Table CEDS. Everything we do can be directly tied to that plan. Our recent site selector familiarization tour is connected to Goal 1, Strategy 4: “Attract investments to the region from national and international companies that lead to job growth.” CareerSpark is connected to Goal 2, Strategy 3: “Increase the graduation rate for regional high schools and assist schools in meeting college and career expectations.” And our work to expand broadband into our rural communities helps advance Goal 3, Strategy 4: “Provide high-speed internet to every home, business and institution.” Those are just three examples. When I prepare this report, I get a chance to share with EDA all the ways their investment is helping us make this region better. You can read it here.

I’m sure next October will be just as crazy as this one, if for no other reason than I am sure I will wait until the last moment to write these reports. But rest assured that Greater Peoria EDC will be working hard over the next twelve months, along with our partners, to get closer to our region’s goals. Glad that you will be along for the ride