With unemployment in the Peoria area at more than eight percent, what our economy needs is to put people back to work. To this end, I have consistently argued that the best way to kickstart the economy, bring in more revenue and get the economic engine turning again is through sound economic development.
Last summer, I was asked to serve on the Policy Steering Committee for a new economic development effort. As I considered getting involved, I wanted to be sure this board wouldn’t just go through the motions or have its goals lost in the shuffle. I also knew that if I was going to get involved, the effort must have accountability and transparency. I was pleased to see such a concerted, comprehensive effort toward these goals incorporated into the mission of Focus Forward Central Illinois. Further, I know that the Steering Committee is holding Focus Forward CI accountable to its principles.
Focus Forward CI is designed to engage all populations in a regional effort to transform mindset, economic performance, environment and leadership in Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford and Mason counties. The strategy deploys a plan to retain and attract new business and grow an educated, trained workforce based on the region’s unique assets—with measurements for success. And there are four critical elements of this economic development process: communication, trust, collaboration and transparency.
Since the effort began less than a year ago, it’s been encouraging to see how many people have stepped up to contribute. Many had never been asked to participate before, and they are bringing a fresh perspective that is helpful toward growing our region. They understand that the future is bright, and there’s no better opportunity to have a hand in their own destiny. I have also been impressed with the diversity of involvement, membership and even the locations where its meetings are held.
I encourage all area citizens to get involved and educated about this effort in some way. The best tactic to help shape the future for our region is to step up to the plate and provide your ideas on how we can grow our economy to be competitive in the 21st century. Even if you are not sure what you can contribute, take a few minutes and browse focusforwardci.com. All upcoming events are posted on this website, as well as information on how you can help. iBi