PEORIA– After nearly 18 months of planning and engaged discussions with community members, the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council (GPEDC) today released the region’s 5-year Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for public comment before it is officially adopted by the GPEDC Board of Directors later this year. The plan, entitled The Big Table CEDS, provides a framework for a variety of stakeholders, agencies and communities across five counties (Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Mason and Logan) Peoria to build an equitable and robust economic future. The plan lays out strategies and tactics in four broad goal areas:
- Promote adaptive economic development that encourages entrepreneurship, supports existing businesses and attracts new employers.
- Develop a more resilient, robust and equitable talent pipeline in Greater Peoria.
- Foster diverse and inclusive communities where all residents and visitors enjoy active, secure, healthy and fulfilled lives.
- Sustain and expand the economic value of the region’s natural resources.
The Big Table started as a daylong regional community building event in Fall 2019. It brought together community members to exchange ideas and to discuss common challenges and opportunities for making the Greater Peoria region a better place to live, work and play. Most importantly, the event created a platform for new connections among community members, providing an opportunity to discuss important issues—together. In the 12 months following that first gathering, a dozen more Big Table: Greater Peoria events were held in all five of our region’s counties. These gatherings, both in person and virtual, covered a range of topics such as business and workforce development, innovation, racial justice, rural development and quality of life. Collectively, these events drew an attendance of 1,500 of the region’s residents who represented a wide spectrum of voices among our diverse communities.
With the table set and a growing number of regional stakeholders finding their seats, it became clear that the 2021-2025 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) should embody that work. This CEDS will act as the road map and the evaluation framework for achieving and assessing progress toward the economic development goals that our region’s
stakeholders have collectively outlined through the Big Table initiative. The CEDS also incorporates the recent impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and strategies targeted toward regional recovery.
The Big Table CEDS is funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, which provides financial and technical resources to economic development districts across the country. The CEDS process contributes to effective economic development through a locally-based, regionally-driven planning process. Economic development planning successfully serves as a means to engage community leaders, leverage the involvement of the private sector, and establish a strategic blueprint for regional collaboration. The CEDS provides a vehicle for individuals, organizations, local governments, institutes of learning, and private industry to engage in a meaningful conversation and debate about what capacity building efforts would best serve economic development in the region.
Over the next five years, the Greater Peoria CEDS Committee and the GPEDC will monitor the progress and continue building the partnerships necessary to achieve the CEDS goals. In the spirit of the Big Table initiative, this document intends to serve as a tool for better communication and collaboration toward the work of building a more thriving, equitable and sustainable regional economy.
“The Big Table CEDS helps chart a course for the region to reach its economic goals,” said Don Forrest, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council. “While GPEDC will be heavily involved in the implementation of these strategies, it is really a playbook for anyone involved in economic development: local governments, schools and colleges, public entities and even private businesses. We are excited to share progress on initiatives, such as Distillery Labs, and continue the conversations needed to keep moving our region forward.”
“I am very proud of the final CEDS document and the hundreds of hours of work that went into its creation,” said Clint Heinold, chairman of the CEDS committee. “The strength of The Big Table is not only the important work that happens as a result of this collaboration, but the collaboration itself; people from every facet of our community, all working together towards a common goal, is a massive achievement in itself, and one that we are proud to support. My sincere thanks to the CEDS Committee as well as everyone who provided input through the Big Table initiative.”
Members of the community are invited to share their thoughts and ideas during the 30-day public comment period by visiting www.greaterpeoriaedc.org/strategy to view the document and submit comments.