Whenever I make a presentation, I always start with a brief mention of our organizational mission statement: “The Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, in collaboration with our local partners, drives economic growth in Greater Peoria through targeted business and talent development and attraction.” Whenever I mention our mission, I emphasize that to me the most important part is “between the commas.” Economic development is truly a team sport. If we were in this game alone, we’d lose for sure. (I mean, I think Team GP is great, but there are only a handful of us on staff.) To really reach our economic goals, everyone needs to be on the team: our communities and their staffs, private businesses, social service agencies, educational institutions and other civic organizations. Even individual citizens have a part to play on the team.
I thought I would take a moment to talk about some of the teammates who we find ourselves working alongside more than others. This feels like one of those moments when you are trying to list all the people to thank in some sort of speech and you just know you are going to miss one or two. But I want to focus on three of our partners who have a similar regional approach to their work:
- CEO Council: The CEO Council is a private foundation and sister organization to the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce. Their real power is being able to organize and focus the leaders of our business community towards high value projects that drive economic growth. It was the CEO Council that was the real force behind the Big Table initiative, which served as the basis of the recent regional economic development strategy. They are helping to organize the Regional Workforce Alliance which pulls together public and private entities to align employer needs with the workforce development system. Their “Business Champions” group provides excellent advice and guidance to our business attraction efforts. And recently they have joined with us and others to develop “Greater Peoria 2030,” a talent attraction initiative that will market the region as a great place to live and work.
- Discover Peoria: Discover Peoria is the brand name of the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. The world of economic development is a big place, and while GPEDC focuses on traditional business startup, assistance and attraction, Discover Peoria works to develop our region’s visitor economy. The COVID pandemic has certainly taken its toll on the hospitality industry and especially on a local visitor economy that is centered on meetings and groups (conventions, youth sports, concerts, etc.). Discover Peoria, however, has worked tirelessly to revamp how people view the Peoria area as both that event destination and a place with great natural and cultural amenities. Their work helps to build the overall brand and by driving home the message of the greatness of Greater Peoria they are also helping to increase civic pride. Discover Peoria is also partnering with us and the CEO Council on our talent attraction campaign.
- Tri-County Regional Planning Commission (TCRPC): Sometimes lost in the conversation about economic development is the important role of regional planning. TCRPC is a quasi-governmental agency composed of representatives from three of our counties (Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford). Their primary function is to study the needs and conditions of our region and to develop strategies that enhance the region’s communities. Much of their work aligns with our regional economic development strategies, from managing the federal initiatives like the Long Term Transportation Plan and Transportation Improvement Program; helping to plan for the protection of critical environmental assets like the Peoria Lakes (Illinois River) and water supply; and helping our communities with everything from local comprehensive planning to developing solutions around bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. TCRPC staff also provides critical leadership in areas such as commercializing Asian carp and river sedimentation and building a smarter and more connected community.
To be sure, there are a ton more players on the team. From our chambers of commerce to the public servants in our counties and cities to the leaders of our civic, social and educational institutions, the beauty of this work is that we are all pulling together towards the same goal.