Writing this newsletter article might just be my last official act in 2021. Christmas is drawing near, and like many of you reading this, the combination of paid holidays and unused vacation days means my time in the office is limited. I’m actually expecting dozens and dozens of “out of office” notifications from recipients as many of you will get a head start on the celebrations. I am thankful for a job that allows me some extra time to spend with family and friends at the end of the year, but even more thankful that there are men and women in our community who go to work each and every day to feed us, heal us and protect us.
I took a quick look back at the article I wrote for the December 2020 newsletter. After a strange and painful year, my article sounded a note of hope around our region and our nation’s economic recovery from the pandemic. I reflected on the resilience of our business community and the spirit of cooperation between our partners. I imagine that 2020 Chris Setti was optimistic that his 2021 self wouldn’t have to mention COVID a year later. Sadly, that is not the case.
This past year has been strange in its own right. From an economic point of view, recovery seems well underway. Companies report strong growth, particularly in the manufacturing sector. If local sales taxes are any indication, our retailers and restaurants seem to have bounced back. The employment situation is sort of a mixed bag: the statistics are not where we would hope to see them, but we are living through a strange labor shortage. In a reverse from last year, we have plenty of jobs available, but a lack of people taking advantage of them. Labor concerns, coupled with supply chain issues and inflation, have complicated the picture. On top of the economic issues, the virus continues to impact our collective health. First delta, and now omicron, continue to stress our public health officials and health care professionals.
And yet despite ongoing obstacles, I remain optimistic. I am buoyed by the strength of our region, both its institutions and its individuals. The history of Greater Peoria is the history of resilience. From French settlers carving a community out of a wide spot in the Illinois River, to overcoming the devastation of Prohibition on our economy, to diversifying our economy as the manufacturing sector shifted, we have persevered and thrived. Last week I was able to be a part of the ribbon-cutting for the new OSF Ministry Headquarters in downtown Peoria. That was obviously a big day for OSF Healthcare, but an even bigger day for the region. It was a symbol that in the midst of struggle, our region continues to rise.
As we head into 2022, there is much to anticipate. Work is underway on the new Workforce Sustainability Center at ICC’s East Peoria campus. Distillery Labs will open its doors this coming fall in Peoria. A large Amazon fulfillment center will start construction in North Pekin. OSF’s cancer therapy center will be nearly complete by the end of the year. In large and small ways, we will move forward. On behalf of the board and staff of Greater Peoria EDC, thank you for being a part of that momentum, and for supporting our organization. Regardless of how you celebrate the end of the year, I pray that it is filled with laughter and warmth. Happy holidays!