Woodford County plans for development

Nick Vlahos/GateHouse News Service

Woodford County government is back in the regional economic development game.

The budget the County Board approved in November includes $40,000 for economic development initiatives. It's the first time in years the county has allocated such funds.

"Timing is everything on this," Board Chairman Stan Glazier said recently. "I think people are ready for it, and I'm really excited about the possibilities here."

Most of that money is expected to go toward Peoria-based economic development efforts, led by the newly created Focus Forward CI. Glazier estimated $25,000 to $30,000 might be allocated toward Peoria, although not all of that necessarily would go to Focus Forward CI.

Mike Hinrichsen, who earlier this week was elected County Board vice chairman, leads Focus Forward CI's goal-setting group. The organization covers Mason, Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford counties.

Money also is likely to be allocated toward agencies in Bloomington-Normal, according to Glazier. Economic development along Interstate 39 in the El Paso, Kappa and Minonk areas would be the focus.

Glazier said he's been in contact with a Bloomington-area representative of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

"We're going to reach out and see if we can get something going with them," Glazier said.

In 2007, Woodford County ended its contract with the Economic Development Council for Central Illinois because it didn't believe the agency was doing enough for the $100,000 it was being paid annually. This effort, Hinrichsen suggested, is different.

"The Focus Forward CI work has brought together the community in a very transparent manner, has clear goals and now will develop the plans to leverage the unique assets we have," Hinrichsen stated in an email. "I believe it also is a great sign of our County Board working together in the best interests of our citizens."