Women Transforming Greater Peoria

by Jennifer Daly, Greater Peoria Economic Development Council

When it comes to economic development, there are many women who have made a significant difference in Greater Peoria. I want to recognize several who are helping to transform our region in some pretty big ways.

Leigh Ann Brown is the economic and tourism coordinator for the City of Pekin… and a lifelong Pekinite. She was an active participant in the development of our regional economic development strategy, Focus Forward, and served in a leadership role in the formation of our Asian carp attraction initiatives. Leigh Ann has become so knowledgeable about Asian carp that she is officially known by our team as Greater Peoria’s “Asian carp czarina.” Her leadership in planning our first International Asian Carp Conference, held this past summer, cemented her moniker in Greater Peoria and across the globe. Her efforts are likely to lead to the birth of a new industry in Greater Peoria—one that will generate jobs, revenue and economic diversity for the region in future years.

Councilwoman Denise Moore is passionate about helping minorities start and grow businesses. She is so passionate that over the past year, she developed a plan, secured a location and enlisted resources to open Greater Peoria’s first Minority Business Development Center. As a representative of one of Peoria’s most distressed neighborhoods, Denise has relentlessly pursued any strategy that can help her constituents find and secure jobs and lift themselves and their families out of a cycle of poverty. The new center is due to open on Peoria’s south side in early 2016, and I can’t wait to see the significant outcomes that are sure to come from her efforts.

Janet Sanders with CEFCU, Julie Howar with Illinois Central College and Barti Perini with ISHPI are changing the way Greater Peoria looks at workforce development. Over the past two years, these women, in partnership with others, have developed the first-in-the-nation Cyber Security Apprenticeship Program (called CICESS), launched this fall at Illinois Central College. There were many challenges along the road, but these ladies are collectively determined to share the importance of this critical skillset and the apprenticeship model with employers. I believe we will look back in future years and recognize them as a few of the pioneers who paved the way for many other apprenticeship programs in Greater Peoria.

What do these women have in common? Certainly, passion for their projects and the willingness to persevere through countless obstacles. They are all collaborators, surrounding themselves with those who can help them achieve success, and they are all making a significant difference in Greater Peoria. iBi

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