Winery Mackinaw

Rural Economic Development in Greater Peoria

How do we define what is rural? Suburban? Urban? Should it be based on population size alone? We quickly found that other factors mattered just as much, and sometimes that a small population size meant very little. By correlating several different data and demographic points, we analyzed our region’s 65 incorporated communities in Logan, Mason, Tazewell, Woodford and Peoria counties, as a place to begin rural economic development.
Rural communities are unique. They all tend to have a calmer pace, a focus on family and traditional values, and a real sense of place. That sense of place is what sets them apart from each other- whether it be their historic downtown square, their baseball field, or their signature annual festival.
Rural communities also have unique challenges. With the relatively recent migration back to urban centric lifestyles by young families, many of our rural communities are facing challenges with stagnant, aging populations. This leads to a decline in physical conditions, lack of economic growth, and struggling anchor institutions such as public schools and libraries. Then the cyclical issue becomes: how do they attract families to join their communities and to help solve these challenges? Where do they begin?
Brittany Brown, Rural Economic Development Coordinator for the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, has actively been meeting with rural communities in the GPEDC’s five counties to learn more about their specific challenges and priorities and has been incredibly impressed by their skills, organization, and especially their passion. The Greater Peoria EDC is helping one community create practices that allow their historic downtown merchants to thrive, another to realize the dream of a brand new community center, and even helping one more to design a pilot program where vacant and abandoned homes can be converted in to attractive family housing at a low cost.
With more than 50 of our 65 incorporated communities being considered rural, this work matters to the vitality of our entire region in a big way. These efforts will help set the stage for growing talent and business in our region- giving even more reason to choose Greater Peoria for success.
If you are interested in learning more about how the Greater Peoria EDC can help your rural community grow and thrive, contact Brittany Brown at
The Greater Peoria EDC is a 501(c) 6 non-profit organization that drives economic growth in a five county region through targeted business and talent development.
by Brittany Brown, Rural Economic Development Coordinator

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