Is it just me, or did 2023 just fly by? They say that time flies when you are having fun. While my job is certainly enjoyable, I think the real truth is that time flies when you are busy. And we were super busy in 2023 as evidenced by our just-released Annual Report. But this note isn’t about the past – it’s about the future. As fun and busy as the last year has been, 2024 will be full of new and expanded work. With the help of our investors and partners, Greater Peoria EDC is poised to grow to meet the needs of our community and help drive our regional economy forward.
Change is afoot for sure. But the change is all positive. Over the course of the first few months of 2024, we will hire five new team members to fill critical roles in the organization. As I am fond of saying, workforce development is economic development, and we are doubling down in that area. We are partnering with the CEO Council to take over management of the Regional Workforce Alliance and help formulate, lead, and measure its initiatives. To do this, we reprogrammed some of our other grant funds to create a Workforce Solutions Specialist position to work with our Director of Workforce Solutions (Jeffrey Inman) to tackle this important work.
In 2023, the Gilmore Foundation and the Greater Peoria Leadership Council (GPLC) launched the Choose Greater Peoria talent attraction initiative, sharing a powerful message of our community’s tremendous assets to the wider world. The campaign has been a success and dozens of people reach out each month to learn more about opportunities to move to Greater Peoria. The volume is large enough, and the work important enough, for a full-time person to take the reins and ensure that interested individuals have all the information they need to make a decision. GPLC turned to Greater Peoria EDC for help in this area, so we created the position of Talent Attraction Coordinator to be a key person in this initiative.
A core of economic development is working to ensure that our existing businesses are thriving and growing. In 2024, we will be more than doubling our ability to conduct outreach to our interregional businesses. First, our entire staff will be focussing on this work. In addition, through some federal and local funding, we will be adding two positions that will focus on business assistance. One will work with our Director of Rural Outreach and Development (Kathie Brown) to connect with businesses in Mason, Logan, and Woodford counties, along with more rural parts of Peoria and Tazewell counties. The other will work with Director of Business Assistance (Sally Hanley) to focus on the region’s urban core. With a new data collection system in place, we will be able to better document our work, measure our impact, and use collected information about business opportunities and struggles to inform our strategies.
Finally, we are hiring a Research and Insights Manager to work directly with me on our business attraction efforts. To be competitive in business attraction, we must be able to fully understand our regional strengths and weaknesses, and be able to clearly demonstrate them. This key employee will oversee data collection, analysis, and sharing along with managing our available sites and buildings list. They will also be the point person in charge of organizing our responses to “Requests for Information” we get from Intersect Illinois, DCEO, and site selectors. Beyond the work in business attraction, this employee will also serve the entire organization in being data-driven. From helping to measure progress on CEDS goals to understanding workforce trends to discovering market opportunities for our business community, the Research and Insights Manager will help lay the foundation for a better economic development effort.
This next year has much more in store than just new employees. Our organization will be physically moving into Distillery Labs when it opens next summer. We are anticipating the completion of a major workforce analysis and report in the spring. We are planning a great event in April featuring a national speaker and expert in economic development. And we might even be going to Japan in the fall. But you’ll need to keep reading these monthly notes to learn more about those things and everything else going on at Greater Peoria EDC. If you don’t want to wait, give me a call, and I will tell you all about it while you share with me how we can help you.
Happy New Year!