Peoria area takes critical look at itself

DeWayne Bartels

The Greater Peoria area can crow about most of its attributes, according to a new study released last week.

The Greater Peoria Area scored excellent when it comes to economic performance, innovation, people and livability according to the Greater Peoria Regional Economic Scorecard released last week by The Heartland Partnership.

Rick Swan, executive director of the East Peoria Chamber of Commerce and a member of the task force that oversaw the effort called this report a “good start.”

Year-long process

The Heartland Partnership, CEO Roundtable volunteers and Bradley University business professors spent more than a year gathering data on hundreds of categories to see how the region stacks up.

“In order to remain a leader in the Midwest, we need a baseline set of measurements so we can better understand how we perform and how we rate compared to regions we consider our competitors and the regions we aspire to be like,” said Scorecard project coordinator Ryan Spain.   

Competitor communities were identified as Chattanooga, Tenn.; the Quad Cities; Dayton, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Lexington, Ky.; Rockford and Springfield, Mo. Communities  identified as ones to aspire to be like included Des Moines, Iowa; Omaha, Neb. and Madison, Wis.

Jim McConoughey, president and CEO of The Heartland Partnership called the scorecard  a proactive approach to determining the strengths and weaknesses of the region.

“Up to this point, the majority of our efforts have been focused internally, but it is no longer enough to simply measure our internal progress from year to year.  We must understand how Greater Peoria performs in relation to our competitors as well,” he said.

Five main categories were analyzed and Greater Peoria demonstrated “great” results when it comes to productivity, generation of intellectual property and access to health care.

Progress, it was noted is needed in business climate and providing additional support for small businesses.

Scores  

The scores and comments by the EDC for the five categories follow:

• “Economic Performance is critical to every community and improving economic performance is the ultimate goal for all community leaders. A strong, vibrant economy leads to improved living standards, job growth, higher wages and more opportunities for all stakeholders.”

Greater Peoria scored 137 which is fifth among the 12 cities and above the U.S. average of 100.

• “People are the most important resource in an economy.  A highly educated and experienced workforce with the knowledge and ability to perform specialized tasks, respond to opportunities and adapt to a changing economic environment will result in greater productivity for local businesses and attract new businesses to the area.”

Greater Peoria scored 134 which is fifth among the 12 cities and above the U.S. average of 100.

• “Innovation is the growth engine of an economy. The ability for a community to establish an innovative environment will attract dynamic new businesses to the area.  Residents can expect higher-wage jobs, lower unemployment and an increased standard of living.”

Greater Peoria scored 71 which is fourth and below the U.S. average of 100.

• “Business and entrepreneurship are essential for a thriving community. A favorable environment will be supportive of local entrepreneurs and entice new companies into the region, resulting in job growth, infrastructure investment and increased living standards.”

Greater Peoria scored 135 which is ninth among the 12 cities and above the U.S. average of 100.

• “Livability includes cost of living, safety, health care access, cultural opportunities, a sense of community and convenience.  Livability is taken into account when a worker decides where to locate. An area is more likely to attract and retain high-quality talent if it can offer a comfortable lifestyle and a pleasant environment to raise a family.”

Greater Peoria scored 115 which is fifth among the 12 cities and above the U.S. average of 100.

Unique

Some other communities across the nation have done similar projects; however, according to Dr. Larry Weinzimmer, Caterpillar Professor of Strategic Management at Bradley University, the methodology used in the Greater Peoria Regional Economic Scorecard is different than any other because of the statistical analysis provided by Bradley University.

Scorecard task force member Dan Daly said while this analysis does not provide every solution to the issues identified, it will serve as a platform on which community and business leaders can build future strategic development efforts.  

“Having strong data as the foundation for strategic development, will increase the probability for success and will help ensure the long-term growth of Greater Peoria,” Daly said.

Bill Cirone, task force member, said the Heartland Partnership is not going to solve all of the issues identified through this project on its own.  

“Overcoming the challenges we have identified will require cooperation between state and local governments, as well as partnerships with the business community,” he said.

“The Heartland Partnership needs you, the residents in this region, to get involved and make a difference. We have the road map now so let’s work together and make sure we’re headed in the right direction.”

Swan said, “This group collectively shared ideas, thoughts and knowledge. Working together we can all make things better.”

Swan said his hope is that as the effort to collect numbers annually continues that the effort will also start to look at  numbers for individual communities.

The Greater Peoria Economic Scorecard will become an annual report to track progress and identify regional weaknesses year over year.  

There will be community forums and the scorecard group will be presenting their findings throughout the region.  

Anyone wishing a presentation for their organization or business, can email info@greaterpeoriascorecard.com and visit www.greaterpeoriascorecard.com for more information.