According to the Small Business Administration, 70 percent of all new jobs in the United States are created by small businesses. Since 98 percent of all businesses are defined as small (fewer than 500 employees), it only makes sense to create an environment in which business can flourish.
With that in mind, in early June, a group of 11 individuals headed to Chicago to meet with officials from the Economic Development Administration (EDA). This small group represented five central Illinois counties and eight separate agencies. The purpose of our trip was to highlight central Illinois and all the reasons why businesses, in partnership with local, state and federal government, would want to invest in our region.
One section of the EDA’s mission statement states, “The U.S. EDA investment policy is designed to establish a foundation for sustainable job growth and building durable regional economies…” Keeping our region “on the radar” of this organization is a good thing and can pay dividends in the future. Why? Because the EDA is always looking to support projects that fit within its mission of sustainable job growth.
In Tazewell County, the EDA has already made several very significant investments to help upgrade our infrastructure. These upgrades allow businesses of all sizes to locate in our county because the roads, sewer, water, etc. can accommodate a variety of businesses and their growth. The most recent commitment was the Wagonseller Road project in unincorporated Tazewell. This township road supports several small businesses, including Excel Manufacturing, which builds replacement parts for the mining industry and rock crushers for delivery around the world. Much of this equipment is too large for a country road to handle, and the EDA, in partnership with the State of Illinois and Tazewell County, made an investment in upgrading the roads. The EDA has also partnered with the City of Pekin in the past, with two grants to help develop Riverway Business Park.
The hour-and-a-half meeting with agency leadership covered a range of topics and was quite valuable. We were able to communicate the strengths and assets of our entire region, and each of the five counties gave a brief update of its own strengths and opportunities. We talked about current projects throughout central Illinois and their potential to create good-paying and sustainable jobs. The mere fact that different units of government were working together was extremely important to the EDA and showed that traditional ways of thinking were a thing of the past.
We ended our time together by looking for ways to work collaboratively with the EDA in the future and by reviewing our productive relationship and successes. A special thanks goes to Denny Kief (former Pekin city manager currently working on economic development for Peoria County) for coordinating this important meeting. By working together as a region with a mutual respect and trust, central Illinois can create an environment where businesses of all sizes will want to invest and grow. The future of our region looks great! iBi