May 24, 2023

Choosing Greater


In late April, just as our last newsletter was being finalized, a large group of community, political, and business leaders met at the Peoria Riverfront Museum for the unveiling of the Choose Greater Peoria campaign. About a week and a half later, this important regional talent attraction initiative launched with a website, media blitz, and a targeted advertising campaign. Spearheaded by the generosity and vision of the Gilmore Foundation, ably developed by great marketing minds at Simantel, and supported by a broad group of business investors, Choose Greater Peoria will be a proactive, aggressive, and sophisticated effort to reshape our region’s message, elevate Greater Peoria’s brand and tell the world about the amazing assets we have to offer. It is a critical strategy for our region that matches our already robust workforce development system that prepares natives and newcomers alike for great job opportunities offered by our companies and institutions. Talent attraction + workforce development = economic development.

Talent attraction has been on our radar for a while as a key economic development strategy. There have certainly been previous attempts – I have a vinyl record in my office that contains a bunch of Peoria songs that were used as a promotional tool to get people interested in us. But more concrete plans began to emerge in the past few years, ignited in particular by the labor shortages that so many of our companies are experiencing.  Talent attraction and regional branding were topics of our first Big Table in 2019 and included as a key part of the resulting Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). About three years ago, GPEDC joined a great coalition of local civic organizations that included Discover Peoria, the CEO Council, PAAR, and all our regional chambers of commerce to launch “GP2030,” which formalized our efforts to bring people to Greater Peoria. One of the earliest GP2030 goals was to get our business community interested in taking a more formal interest in talent attraction. With the dawn of Choose Greater Peoria and its tremendous corporate and philanthropic support, we have incorporated the principles of GP2030 into this larger strategy.

There are sure to be naysayers, either from those who mistakenly believe that Peoria is not worth celebrating or fighting for or from skeptics who feel that “this has been tried before.” But you don’t build momentum on those stuck in the past or who dwell in negativity. I’m not Peoria’s historian, but in the twenty years I have been here, I have never seen a coordinated, well-funded, and targeted campaign like this. The support of our corporate community is key here – they are putting their money where their mouth is. They recognize Peoria’s worth; it’s why they are located here. They want to fight for Peoria and for Peoria to fight for itself.

I’m proud to have chosen Peoria nearly 20 years ago. I recognize that some people think I just say stuff like this because I’m sort of a paid booster of our region. But I truly mean it. Over the past two decades, my wife and I had our opportunities to move but continued to choose Peoria. We raised our two daughters here. We built our careers here. We built a community here. We will grow old here (or older since we are also old). Peoria is home – I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else, including my hometown of Burbank, California. On the Greg & Dan Show the other morning, Greg asked me about how the shift to more remote work might impact talent attraction. I agreed that our low-cost/high-quality community could be attractive to those who had those types of jobs. But I also said this: The same flexibility that people are attracted to with remote work is made even better by the flexible life we have here. We don’t have to battle endless traffic jams and miss our kids’ games or be late for dinner. We don’t have to grind away our days working just to make the mortgage payment. Our life here is markedly and measurably better. I’m excited to help tell the story of why Greater Peoria is truly greater. I hope you can find a way to join us in doing the same.