One year ago, many would have said that the PACVB was in a state of disarray. The CEO had just left, the board was accused of being controlled by the downtown Peoria hotels, and some city leaders had very little confidence in the organization. To top it off, the board gambled by hiring a new CEO with no industry experience. Skepticism was high, and so were the stakes. The Peoria Civic Center was in the final stages of a $55 million expansion, nearly doubling the existing square footage of its exhibition space, and everyone wanted to know, “What does a news guy know about the CVB business?”
However, the PACVB had a lot going for it, beginning with a tremendously talented and dedicated staff. As it turns out, the same could be said for the board, which agreed to overhaul its representation and amend PACVB bylaws to prevent the possibility of any one interest from controlling the organization. Two board members who applied for the CEO position (but did not get the job) stepped down; the number of members who represented the Heart of Illinois Hospitality Association (HOIHA) shrunk from six to four; the clause in the bylaws which required the board to have at least half of its members appointed by HOIHA was eliminated and the number of PACVB board members was increased from 12 to 15.
Further, thanks to strong leadership and input from Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis, municipalities around Peoria were guaranteed representation. The mayors of Pekin, Washington, Morton and East Peoria each appointed a member. Eight of the 15 current PACVB board members are new, providing a fresh perspective while still drawing on the wisdom and experience of the past. The desired result was to demonstrate to the community that the organization recognized the need for change and was responding to that need. What was more exciting was the vote by HOIHA, which unanimously supported the changes.
So, with positive and intelligent guidance from the board and hard work by a loyal and professional staff, good things started to happen. The mission statement was scrapped and a new one was created—one which more accurately reflected the PACVB and the communities it represents. Outlying municipalities which had little or no trust in the PACVB listened to the new message—one of true regionalism—and began to work as a team again. Changes were made in the PACVB corporate structure and individual staff responsibilities, solid business strategies were developed and morale improved. But most importantly, people made plans to visit the Peoria area—lots of them.
The state of the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau is strong. The year 2009 will set records for the number of visitors to this area, and together with our partners in the hospitality industry, we look for even greater future success. IBI