Downtown Development Moving Forward

Michael Freilinger
Downtown Development Corporation of Peoria

How will Caterpillar’s announcement to move its headquarters to Chicago affect the future of Peoria’s downtown development? Although the announcement is a disappointment, it is, indeed, a current trend for businesses to locate in downtowns, as well as to operate with a smaller footprint for their corporate headquarters. Examples of this trend can be seen in recent moves by ADM, ConAgra and GE Transportation, as outlined in a recent article from Crain’s Chicago Business (chicagobusiness.com/section/hq).

Reviewing and restructuring basic processes and procedures can be vital to the future success of a company. Moving corporate headquarters can offer sensible opportunities to consolidate efforts and budgets in ways that assist in maintaining a healthy organization. For many, these changes are often initially disruptive, as new ways of working are implemented within a company’s structure. It also takes time for the changes to produce results. But if moving the headquarters location keeps the company strong, the change can prove to be beneficial to the local employees, their families and the community.

Change isn’t always easy, but it is sometimes necessary to ensure stability and/or growth for a business. It is important to continue our path to expand and develop the downtown to support existing businesses and attract new opportunities to maintain a healthy and stable community.

On a positive note, Caterpillar has stated that just 300 of the 12,000-plus jobs in the Peoria region are scheduled to be relocated to Chicago. It is excellent news that Peoria will continue to retain a significant number of Caterpillar jobs. The numerous jobs that remain represent essential functions, such as research and development. For this reason, we do not expect to see much of a difference in day-to-day operations in our downtown area.

We were also pleased to hear that Caterpillar still intends to support the Peoria community with its many philanthropic activities. Over the years, Caterpillar has sponsored many local organizations, and it will continue to do so.

Further, we are very fortunate that our business and civic leaders are already involved in planning processes to diversify and grow our local economy. The implementation of this plan is currently underway, producing positive results for the area. These efforts will continue to move forward, strengthening our community in a variety of ways.

It is increasingly important for our community to come together to support this plan of diversification and economic growth. Improving our competitiveness with comparable cities is essential to this effort, which includes the development of our downtown. By continuing to transform our downtown into the type of community sought by businesses and employees alike, we will encourage existing businesses to stay downtown—and attract new businesses and employees as well.

The Downtown Development Corporation is currently exploring the possibility of establishing a Special Service Area, and will report to the community as we begin to develop recommendations. The adoption of an SSA—a mechanism to provide enhanced municipal services—will be a critical component in achieving our vision to strengthen and further develop our downtown. By doing so, we look forward to welcoming more new businesses to the area. iBi

Michael Freilinger is president and CEO of the Downtown Development Corporation of Peoria.

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