April 26, 2024

GPEDC Weekend Update- April 26, 2024

Here are some updates to end your week. 

Economic Development Forum: All I can say is, “wow.” What a great morning we had this past Wednesday. Jay Garner, one of the deans of the site selector business and author of Economic Development Is STILL Not For Amateurs, spoke to a crowd of about 125 elected community and business leaders. Jay shared his experience as a location advisor to large corporations and his view on what makes a region competitive. His talk covered a range of topics, including developing real estate to meet the opportunities of a growing manufacturing sector; ensuring a robust, diverse, and equitable talent pipeline; making sure downtown is a vibrant, active, and attractive “living room” for the community; and defining the region’s brand. His message was simple but important, and he left us with some actionable areas in which we can work. I followed up his speech with my own reflection on what Jay had to say and how Greater Peoria was addressing some of his challenges. We had a great crowd who actively engaged with excellent questions. My thanks to Jay for his participation and to the GPEDC staff – with a special hat tip to David – for putting together such an informative morning. And another thanks to Ameren Illinois who made it possible for every attendee to walk away with a copy of Jay’s book. 

Touring Peoria: During his talk, he encouraged us to “stay in the game” of business attraction. This includes building relationships with site selectors. Like any business, economic development is a relationship game. As I joked with the crowd, Jay himself is a site selector and bringing him to Peoria was part of us “staying in the game.” The Forum was just a part of Jay’s time here in Greater Peoria, and the rest of the time, I got to show him around and have some great conversations with locals. This included a tour of some of our regional highlights, like Grandview Drive and OSF’s Cancer Center; a dinner with representatives from Peoria County, Tazewell County, and Ameren Illinois; and lunch with GPEDC alumna Lenora Fisher (now with Intersect Illinois). But the highlight – for Jay and I both – was a personal tour of the Peoria Riverfront Museum by John Morris. Jay is a huge Richard Pryor fan and got an up-close look at some of the Pryor memorabilia held by the Museum. John himself is a powerful ambassador for our region, and I’m always so impressed with how he can weave stories about Peoria into his tour of the displays and exhibits. Jay commented that it was the finest museum he’d seen in a community our size.

EDA Visit: Among the crowd at the Forum was Tom Baron, our liaison to the Economic Development Administration (EDA) regional office in Chicago. Tom is the new Economic Development Representative covering Illinois; this was his first visit to Peoria. Not a bad way to get introduced to our region! After the Forum he was able to meet with our staff to better understand the work we all do. EDA is one of our best partners, and it is their financial support that fuels our work on the Big Table Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). Beyond that, they are a major investor in our region. In the last five years, EDA has invested nearly $20 million in Greater Peoria to support workforce development and startup programs. I’m thankful that Tom made the trip, and we look forward to working with him to bring more resources to Greater Peoria.

Coyote Road Open House: RWE Clean Energy is developing a 1300-acre, utility-scale solar energy project in southern Tazewell County. The project, called “Coyote Road,” will employ 300 construction workers on a $200 million project that will generate 150 MW of electricity. To educate the public and other stakeholders on the project and the benefits of solar energy, they are hosting a Support Solar open house on April 30 from 5 – 7 pm at The Den at 510 (510 Derby Street, Pekin). This event is free and open to local businesses and community partners to attend—Food and drinks will be available. More information on Coyote Road Solar Project here

Have a great weekend.