Words from Cathy Carlat, Mayor of Peoria
February 22, 2017
Mayor of Peoria
Peoria is home to families who enjoy an exceptional quality of life. Kids play safely in their neighborhoods, parks and trails are bustling every weekend. But Monday through Friday, too many of Peoria’s working population get in their cars and drive outside the City for work.
The conversion from bedroom community to employment hub is a relatively new way of thinking about suburbs. Current ideals compel us to look for ways to spend more time close to home, bringing about the creation of mixed-use centers where residents can live, work and play.
What about Peoria? What can local government do to bring jobs closer to home for its residents?
The role of government is to provide an environment where free enterprise can grow and prosper. While leaving the private market to those in the private sector, cities may “prime” areas to attract certain market segments or businesses.
As an example, in Peoria, we know that if we want to attract high wage employers, we must have office space designed to appeal to advanced business services, technology, bio-sciences, and other targeted industries. To that end, the Peoria Investment Forum was created to reveal market advantages in Peoria. The 2016 Forum showcased the City’s portfolio of shovel-ready sites, including opportunities for business location and biotechnology investment.
Eighty-one investors and developers attended last year’s Forum, resulting in an agreement with the Plaza Companies for the construction of an Innovation Campus in the heart of the P83 District, currently in the design phase.
We are getting ready for the 2017 Peoria Investment Forum to highlight other areas that are positioned favorably for the private market. The Vistancia Commercial Core’s public/private partnership along the 303 and the Washington Street block improvements in Old Town are two great examples.
Over the past year, there have been many distinct branding enhancements within the P83 District such as new lighting, freeway signage, way finding markers and gateway entry monuments. These changes are purposefully targeted improvements, part of a comprehensive plan to assure that our Entertainment District remains a modern, relevant, and exciting location. These efforts are paying off. When the P83 Improvement Project first began, the economic downturn had taken a toll on the area. The vacancy rate was growing and help was needed to attract the type of establishments that Peoria residents want and deserve.
I’m happy to report that the area is now alive with unique, new restaurants such as Giordano’s, Headquarters, Modern Round, Revolu Modern Taqueria and Slick’s Garage to name a few. With the addition of Huntington University to the P83 district, the influx of digital media students will be great for business.
Of course, a viable local economy requires a balance of business types and services. Over the past few years, Peoria has also welcomed several notable companies. As part of our advanced industry attraction efforts, Aviage, an avionics software development company; Maxwell Technologies, a global leader in energy storage and power delivery solutions; medical providers Honor Health, and Cigna all opened their doors in our growing city.
Peoria is also honored to welcome two international companies, GEPACK, serving over 29 countries worldwide, and Novembal, the North American arm of a corporation headquartered in Switzerland.
A successful long term economic development strategy requires focus and patience. We are ever mindful of the strength of our educated workforce as we drive the plans that will give them the choice to pursue a career close to home.
Peoria continues to foster emerging opportunities and looking at the well-being of our City, I believe we’re on the right track.