Entrepreneurship: The City’s Role

Mayor Jim Ardis - City of Peoria

As a new year begins, I want to again thank iBi for the opportunity to discuss issues important to Peoria. “Entrepreneurship” is a great topic for this issue, but before sharing a few thoughts on the City’s role in entrepreneurship, I’d like to mention three related and timely items: the new two-year budget plan, my forthcoming State of the City Address, and the passing of former Mayor Dave Ransburg.

Challenges Ahead… and the Loss of a Public Servant
The City’s 2018-2019 budget was being finalized by the City Council as this issue went to press. What I can say now is that to maintain high-quality and responsive essential city services, there will be further belt-tightening in terms of staffing and expenditures, and additional revenue measures to close an $8 million shortfall. These are not pleasant decisions, to say the least, but the Council and Administration have approached these tough challenges with transparency, accessibility, candor, citizen input, open debate and sensitivity to the bottom-line impact on taxpayers and visitors alike.

Later this month, I will have the opportunity to deliver my 13th State of the City Address. Looking through my “glass half-full” lens, I view challenges and problems as opportunities to improve, strengthen and make our city an even greater place to live. While we as a community continue to adjust to changes at Caterpillar and the resulting impacts on downtown, for example, we renew our focus on those employment sectors growing and furthering “entrepreneurship.” I’ll have more to say about that and other topics in my address on January 31, 2018.

The recent passing of Dave Ransburg has saddened all of us. First and foremost, Dave was indeed an Entrepreneur, with a capital “E.” His leadership made a business flourish, providing employment opportunities for many. His volunteer participation in several organizations helped improve Peoria’s quality of life. His service as mayor of Peoria came at a critical time in our history, and he acquitted himself in that role with dignity and dedication to Peoria’s future. We thank him for his many substantial contributions, and wish Zan and the Ransburg family only the finest memories during this difficult time.

Support, Security and Partnership
The City’s role with respect to entrepreneurship has several dimensions. We generally associate an entrepreneur with a business enterprise. Someone takes a financial risk to start a business venture, and in so doing, that individual has a vision of what he or she wants to accomplish with a product or service. Peoria is blessed with hundreds of entrepreneurs, of all business sizes and shapes. A common denominator among them is a belief that Peoria is a good place to run a business, raise a family and enjoy life’s blessings.

The City of Peoria provides a framework of support, security and partnership. Quality and dependable public services—especially in our Public Safety and Public Works departments—are crucial to an entrepreneur’s decisions as to location. The support the City provides includes predictable and stable municipal policies, ordinances and regulations—but it also includes fostering robust economic development. A good example of this is the continuing growth and development taking place in the Warehouse District, where the many new business ventures represent the very essence of entrepreneurship. The City of Peoria, in partnership with the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council and other entities, helps create a business-friendly and nurturing climate.

The City also works with other local governments and school districts to build an overall community environment attractive to prospective entrepreneurs. Excellent transportation, recreation and educational resources, for example, represent priority concerns related to a decision to start and operate a business here. A good amount of my time as mayor is dedicated to partnering with my colleagues at other entities to mutually advance our community’s quality of life.

Entrepreneurship happens throughout Peoria—and it is not limited to a strict definition of for-profit business. The decisions taking place at our healthcare providers are certainly entrepreneurial in terms of innovative medicine, treatment, education and community outreach. New curriculum offerings at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria reflect a deep entrepreneurial spirit. Bradley University and Illinois Central College remain top-quality institutions because their programs support a general, robust economic development environment.

The City of Peoria’s focus on effective law enforcement, first-class fire protection, infrastructure improvements, orderly community development and code enforcement, financial stability, personnel accessibility and accountability all contribute to nurturing community-wide entrepreneurship. And finally, let me offer a “tip of the hat” to the City’s administrative leadership. Dealing with a challenging budget, balancing service priorities with available resources, and responding to the demands of an engaged city council and citizenry takes its own brand of entrepreneurship!

Peoria has many positive developments to look forward to in 2018. With your continued support, advice, counsel and partnership, we will succeed in being the very best we can be growing forward. Thank you for the opportunity. iBi

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