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The Big Table: Greater Peoria

2021-2025 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy

Find your seat at The Big Table

The Big Table: Greater Peoria Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) is a regional planning document.  It is a tool for organizing and coordinating a region’s economic development goals for the Central Illinois region that includes Logan, Mason, Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford counties.  It was developed alongside The Big Table initiative to increase public participation and ownership in regional planning.  Take a look around to find ways to get involved in building a sustainable and equitable economy in Greater Peoria!

News & Updates

Goals, Strategies & Tactics

Although the goals of the CEDS are wide ranging and overlapping, they have been organized into four general areas: Economy, Workforce, Quality of Place and Natural Resources.  For each goal area, the CEDS Committee formed working groups that determined the strategies and tactics that might lead to tangible and measurable progress over the next five years.

An additional dimension of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will also be infused throughout all goal areas with the aim of addressing systemic barriers to wealth creation for historically underserved racial and ethnic groups, women, the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, and rural communities. Developing an intentional practice of reducing economic barriers will advance the overarching goal of creating a more equitable regional economy.

Goal Area 1: Economy

Promote adaptive economic development that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship, supports existing businesses, and attracts new employers.

Strategy 1

Support economic innovation and digitization for the full range of businesses, from startups to legacy corporations.


  • Increase the number of small business starts and scaling activities
  • Increase venture investment in regional startups
  • Increase awareness and adoption of new technologies and innovation in existing companies

Key Tactics

  • Grow and support the community of entrepreneurs in both urban and rural areas
  • Position Distillery Labs as the center of the region’s innovation ecosystem
  • Develop funding mechanisms to address financing gaps for entrepreneurs (innovation seed fund, revolving loan fund, etc.) particularly for historically disadvantaged populations
  • Design programs that support entrepreneurship and small business creation
  • Research gaps and opportunities, leverage technology to digitally transform and reposition existing businesses for the digital economy

Strategy 2

Develop real estate and infrastructure to make it attractive for investment.


  • Increase private investment
  • Increase property value and Equalized Assessed Value (EAV)

Key Tactics

  • Identify key public infrastructure projects that promote investment and business growth
  • Seek funding from local, state and federal sources to address infrastructure needs
  • Maximize investment in the region’s underdeveloped/underutilized areas (e.g. Enterprise Zones, Opportunity Zones, etc.)
  • Maintain and promote up-to-date directory of public and private incentives to drive business growth and community vitality
  • Create and execute plans to repurpose shuttered facilities, particularly coal power plants such as in Havana, IL

Strategy 3

Grow existing businesses with a focus on ones that provide goods and services beyond the region.


  • Increase investment and job growth
  • Increase in regional GDP
  • Increase business-to-business (B2B) purchasing within the region

Key Tactics

  • Support and market key industry clusters (manufacturing, logistics, healthcare and agriculture)
  • Increase export activities and volume (regional, national and international)
  • Develop and expand tools that support business growth (i.e. Foreign Trade Zone, Enterprise Zones, Revolving Loan Fund, Opportunity Zones)
  • Increase customer and market diversity of existing businesses, particularly small and mid-size manufacturing enterprises
  • Develop supply chain systems that facilitate the commerce between businesses in the region
  • Capitalize on emerging clusters, especially textiles, insurance and biomedical manufacturing

Strategy 4

Attract investments to the region from national and international companies that lead to job growth.


  • Increase foreign direct investment
  • Increase the number of out-of-state and foreign-based firms in the region
  • Increase job growth from outside investment

Key Tactics

  • Identify, develop and market key properties within the region, especially those in low income areas
  • Build relationships with site selectors, consultants and foreign consulates
  • Develop and market the Greater Peoria DataHub and the resources within

Goal Area 2: Workforce

Develop a more resilient, robust and equitable talent pipeline in Greater Peoria.

Strategy 1

Remove barriers that prevent people from connecting to family-sustaining employment.


  • Decrease the number of families living in poverty
  • Lower unemployment in key demographics
  • Increase workplace diversity with a focus on historically underrepresented populations (low-income, racial minorities, ‘returning’ citizens, disability, etc.)
  • Increase percentage of the population with a postsecondary credential

Key Tactics

  • Support expansion of “earn and learn” programs to retain, retrain and empower the workforce with a focus on Qualified Census Tracts and historically disadvantaged individuals
  • Establish cross-sector pathways responsive to an individual’s unique needs
  • Develop incentives for local employers to implement more inclusive hiring practices
  • Implement a shared intake, assessment, support and outcome tracking system

Strategy 2

Develop opportunities and mechanisms to provide citizens with the skills they need to be gainfully employed.


  • Decrease the number of families living in poverty
  • Increase percentage of working age population with a postsecondary credential

Key Tactics

  • Launch and utilize a system to track employability credentials and essential skills (i.e. GPEAK)
  • Develop standard curriculum for essential skills to be used by educational and social service institutions
  • Ensure credentialing programs are available and align with workforce gaps
  • Increase the percentage of regional baccalaureate completers in targeted workforce gap positions who remain in the region
  • Recruit, credential and place uncredentialed working adults into full-time workforce gap jobs paying at least 30% over living wage
  • Drive a regional shift in business culture from expecting a workforce with available skill sets to investing in the workforce pipeline creation to develop skills in high demand sectors

Strategy 3

Increase the graduation rate for regional high schools and assist schools in meeting college and career expectations.


  • Increase number of high school students with early college credit
  • Increase percentage of students that obtain a postsecondary credential
  • Increase youth labor force participation
  • Increase number of students participating in career events

Key Tactics

  • Leverage local, state and national resources within the community to develop career pathways endorsements
  • Coordinate and align career exploration strategies for regional middle schoolers
  • Support schools in meeting PaCE standards.
  • Build and sequence additional career pathways at regional schools
  • Identify and coordinate workplace based experiences for high schoolers

Strategy 4

Address talent gaps and population loss by positioning Greater Peoria as a desirable place for people to relocate.


  • Increase population of 25-44 year-olds

Key Tactics

  • Establish a comprehensive, closed-loop system between employers, educational institutions and economic development organizations
  • Segment audiences, develop messaging and execute campaigns to promote Greater Peoria
  • Develop mechanisms that support current and attract more remote workers
  • Explore and develop financial incentives to attract people to move to the region
  • Develop incentives for local employers to implement more inclusive hiring practices
  • Implement a shared intake, assessment, support and outcome tracking system

Goal Area 3: Quality of Place

Foster diverse and inclusive communities where all residents and visitors enjoy active, secure, healthy and fulfilled lives.

Strategy 1

Foster and facilitate healthy lifestyle choices for improved health outcomes and individual prosperity.


  • Increase health insurance coverage
  • Improve connections for active transportation
  • Increase physical activity levels
  • Increase nutrition security
  • Decrease obesity, food insecurity, suicide, depression rates and substance abuse

Key Tactics

  • Implement preventative strategies and increase access to mental health services
  • Reduce substance abuse to protect health, safety, employability and quality of life
  • Promote healthy eating and active living to decrease chronic illness and food insecurity as outlined by the Partnership for Healthy Community
  • Evaluate transportation options and recognize safe and active transportation options as a component of healthy living in the region
  • Implement a regional food systems strategy as outlined by the Regional Food Council of Central Illinois

Strategy 2

Increase investment in the region’s town centers.


  • Increase private investment in town centers
  • Decrease in property vacancy
  • Increase in business starts in town centers

Key Tactics

  • Develop wayfinding resources to and from areas of interest
  • Expand Illinois Main Street Program throughout the region
  • Increase transportation options in and out of the region’s town centers and primary retail corridors
  • Develop a directory of public and private financing options and provide training and resources to local governments

Strategy 3

Actively promote the region’s assets to residents to improve perceptions of quality of life in the region.


  • Increase percentage of people with positive perception of Greater Peoria

Key Tactics

  • Utilize the Big Table platform to drive the conversation on regional strengths
  • Create digital campaigns to capture human interest stories and business success
  • Develop, support and promote a campaign for residents to become local “tourists”
  • Engage social media influencers in celebrating the region’s assets
  • Recognize transportation options and accessibility as an asset to recognize, celebrate and build out

Strategy 4

Provide high-speed internet to every home, business and institution.


  • Increase the number of households served by and able to access broadband

Key Tactics

  • Identify underserved areas for broadband service
  • Address barriers to connectivity to existing broadband service
  • Investigate and apply for funding to address gaps
  • Engage municipalities about broadband coverage solutions

Strategy 5

Ensure residents have quality, income-appropriate housing choices.


  • Decrease in housing instability and homelessness
  • Increase housing starts across all income brackets

Key Tactics

  • Develop regional capacity to educate policymakers regarding effective and equitable housing policies
  • Assess housing availability and determine gaps for every income level
  • Develop local solutions for homelessness
  • Facilitate the creation of nonprofit housing development corporations
  • Evaluate transportation options between housing choices and well-paying jobs

Goal Area 4: Natural Resources

Sustain and expand the economic value of the region’s natural resources.

Strategy 1

Develop a supportive and equitable business development environment for beginning farmers and other enterprises sustainably utilizing or enhancing the region’s agricultural, water, or other natural resources.


  • Increase the number of small and midsize farming operations
  • Increase the number of value-added food business startups
  • Increase the number and diversity of students in postsecondary programs such as agriculture, horticulture and agtech programs

Key Tactics

  • Establish small farm incubators and/or other farm business development infrastructure for beginning farmers
  • Connect students and entrepreneurs to farming and food production opportunities
  • Formalize a regional food council to support farm and food entrepreneurs
  • Found the Distillery Labs food and farm innovation programming with a mission to develop an ecologically sustainable and socially equitable farm and food economy
  • Develop youth/secondary education and training program(s) for farming, food production and agtech
  • Partner with Illinois Agri-Food Alliance to implement the FARM Illinois plan

Strategy 2

Implement existing conservation and sustainability plans for the region’s key natural resources to maintain their availability for responsible economic development uses.


  • Protect and improve water resources, soil health and natural habitats

Key Tactics

  • Promote cover cropping and other regenerative practices to farmers
  • Promote recommendations from the IEPA Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy
  • Implement next steps outlined in the Peoria Lakes Comprehensive Conservation Plan (i.e. reduce Asian carp population, reduce sediment, improve habitat, etc.)
  • Promote ongoing agriculture resource management research of key institutions such as ICC and assist in securing funding to expand the work
  • Implement actions in the Mahomet Aquifer Protection Task Force: Findings & Recommendations and Middle Illinois Basin Water Supply Planning Report

Strategy 3

Support the development of new businesses and markets for a diversity of products derived from agricultural and water resource conservation activity.


  • Increase the number of businesses that sustainably utilize soil and water resources

Key Tactics

  • Support the infrastructure development needed to scale commercial uses for invasive Asian carp species
  • Promote and incubate industrial hemp (fiber) production and processing models
  • Utilize dredged river sedimentation to create business opportunities
  • Support and attract scalable startup food and fiber manufacturers that utilize regional agricultural products
  • Support regional supply chain development for the nascent organic agriculture sector
  • Establish a port district and obtain designation as a Port Statistical Area

Strategy 4

Create and promote commercial opportunities and experiences connected to the region’s natural assets that are valued and used both by residents and visitors.


  • Increase number of visits to natural resource amenities and outdoor recreation

Key Tactics

  • Develop marketing campaigns promoting outdoor recreation sites to visitors within a four-hour drive
  • Facilitate the development of businesses connected to recreation along the Illinois River or other natural areas
  • Maintain a natural resource working group to coordinate marketing and PR for the region’s wildlife and ecosystem conservation areas

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Diversity, equity and inclusion will be infused throughout all goal areas with the aim of addressing systemic barriers to wealth creation and quality of life based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

To achieve sustained economic growth, economic opportunities and wealth creation must be accessible to all people and communities in Greater Peoria. Inequality among racial and ethnic groups, women, the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities hinders regional prosperity. Systemic and structural inequities in the economy have kept certain groups from achieving economic independence and quality of life. Building an inclusive economy requires a systems approach and relies on government, businesses, and communities working together. The CEDS plays a role in rallying those regional stakeholders.

The following goal, objectives and key tactics are adapted from both the Big Table reports and the preliminary goals outlined by a newly formed joint commission.

DEI Goal

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Goal

Accelerate efforts to increase business and workforce diversity and inclusion and economic equity for historically disadvantaged people.


  • Establish more diverse and inclusive leadership in government and business
  • Keep equity issues at the forefront of public dialogue
  • Create policies and programs to address equity issues
  • Develop models that promote and champion equitable practices at all levels

Key Tactics

  • Promote regional discussions on racial equity
  • Form working groups for policies and practices that increase economic equity
  • Create a diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plan
  • Develop metrics used to evaluate specific outcomes of a plan
  • Deliver annual and periodic progress reports
  • Develop a more representative workforce

Tracking Progress

The Greater Peoria CEDS Committee established a variety of key indicators to measure progress toward the 2021-2025 CEDS goals. This section identifies those indicators, the data sources for tracking those indicators, and the various collaborators involved in implementing specific strategies, and collecting and analyzing the data necessary for reliable evaluation.

Future CEDS updates will rely on this tracking system to know which strategies are working and which are not. By agreeing upon a set of clear and meaningful indicators and adjusting strategies and tactics when necessary, collaborating stakeholders can create a culture of continuous improvement.

Check back periodically to this section as we continue to build out more datasets in the continuous effort to provide everyone with a more reliable pulse on our region’s economy.

You can also download The Big Table: CEDS Annual Reports at the end of this page.

How Can You Get Involved? Watch the Video Below

There are already so many things happening in the region that are directly tied to the goals and ambitions of the Big Table Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). However, many of these stories are untold or yet to be uncovered. As part of the efforts to communicate the strategy and the website to a wider audience, we want to find and tell these stories. One such story is the incredible work Angie Ostaszewski is doing with her TikTok account.This video tells the story of Angie Ostaszewski, a TikTok sensation and Greater Peoria resident and champion who has influenced over 160 people to move to the Greater Peoria area through her platform. By using her passion, Angie is playing an important role in bringing a talented workforce to the region and infusing a new shot of diversity into the region. Angie also highlights the great things about our region, such as affordable real estate, career, and personal development opportunities, our incredibly low cost of living, and the overall nice and neighborly Midwest charm.
You can also download The Big Table: CEDS Annual Reports at the end of this page.

We have a lot of things to be proud of as a region and we have developed this high-level snapshot of the progress we have made so far in relation to the CEDS. Please download this document to learn more.

The Data – Economic Indicators

Understanding key economic performance indicators such as demographics, educational attainment, labor force participation, jobs, median income, housing and poverty levels show where we stand today and help set the stage for tracking future progress.

For those interested in digging deeper into regional economic data, you are in the right place!  Feel free to browse the DataHub’s numerous pages of data visualizations and information curated for the purposes of community and economic development in Greater Peoria.  Don’t know where to begin?  Start here.


The Greater Peoria region has a mix of rural and urban places. Heading in any direction out of the urbanized areas of Peoria, East Peoria or Pekin one will find vast stretches of commercial agriculture that connect numerous outlying suburbs and small towns.

Illustration derived from an image captured from USDA Rural Development, https://eligibility.sc.egov.usda.gov/

The economic concept states that metro counties include a city with a large amount of economic activity and high population density (Peoria). Additionally, counties adjacent to a metro county (Tazewell, Woodford) may also be metro. Non-metro counties (Logan and Mason) are considered “rural” by lacking either a city with sufficient population density or close proximity to a metro county.10

The non-metro population nationally was at 14% in 2017.11 In Greater Peoria, 11% of the population resides in a non-metro county and 89% in a metro county. But a number of communities inside metro counties may consider themselves rural for a variety of intents and purposes.  For the purposes of economic development and the CEDS research, a GPEDC analysis included all areas eligible for economic development programs through USDA Rural Development, which brought the region’s rural population closer to 20%.

The Data – Race & Equity

Racial, ethnic and gender inequities exist across the economic system in the United States and disproportionately impact people of color. The inequities in Peoria mirror those nationwide, but in many cases the disparity far exceeds the national average.

Over 80% of the region’s Black population live in the City of Peoria and smaller communities immediately adjacent. The following pages review the acute disparity that Blacks experience in Peoria as evidenced in the data. Moreover, the data show that the disparities experienced by Blacks in Peoria consistently surpass national averages on multiple measures.


Median annual household income for black families in the United States is 62% of the median annual household income of white families. The median annual household income of Black families in Peoria is $28,019, nearly 46% of White families.

The census tracts of the Southside neighborhood of Peoria have a median family income that is less than 50% that of the City of Peoria.


Black residents account for 27% of the City of Peoria’s population, but they represent over 50% of those living in the city in poverty. Another way to look at it is that 36% of all Black people in Peoria live in poverty.

The Southside neighborhood of Peoria (zip code 61605) is 65% Black and is a concentrated area of poverty, with over 90% of its residents living in poverty. This has earned it the Racially or Ethnically Concentrated Areas of Poverty (R/ECAP) distinction by the federal government which identifies the nations highest concentrations of poverty along racial lines.


Black American unemployment rates in the U.S. have remained close to double that of White Americans for the past several decades. Black Peorians experience unemployment at an even higher rate than the national average.

The unemployment rate in Peoria (pre-pandemic) was 7.2% for White Peorians and 16.2% for Black Peorians. Additionally, in Peoria County, Black citizens are sent to prison at a rate three times that of Whites, and those with a criminal record also have a more difficult time finding employment that pays a living wage.


Home ownership is one way many Americans build long term wealth and escape the cycle of poverty. Despite relatively affordable housing, in Peoria, just 32.6% of Black households own their homes. This is less than half the 76.1% White home ownership rate. Also, 36% of the Peoria Housing Authority’s units are in the Southside and most Public housing residents in Peoria are Black.

There is little to no market demand for the housing stock and land in Peoria’s Southside, resulting in significant blight, abandonment and disinvestment in the area.

Residents express feelings of geographic and social isolation from employment and retail districts of Peoria. A recent analysis by the University of Richmond correlated the 20th Century practice of “redlining” (excluded predominantly Black communities from conventional mortgage lending) with a high Social Vulnerability Index on Peoria’s Southside.39 The Social Vulnerability Index is widely used to assess a community’s capacity to prepare for, respond to, and recover from human and natural disasters.


Image from Richmond University Social Vulnerability & The Legacy of Redlining



In Peoria, 79.6% of Blacks have a high school diploma, well below the 92.9% attainment rate for Whites. This attainment gap is one of the largest in the country. Since 1970, the student population of Peoria Public Schools has fallen from 25,000 to 13,300, resulting in reduced funding and educational offerings.

Peoria Public Schools has a student body of 75.9% non-White students, which does not reflect the city population. One cause has been a steady exodus of wealthier families from Peoria Public Schools to private schools and nearby suburban school districts.

In addition to white-flight, the school system itself suffers from structural challenges. A recent analysis in the online publication Governing showed that the Peoria metro area had the most segregated schools of any area nationally, regardless of metro size.


Images from the HOI United Way 2020 Community Assessment

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Data Tools

The Greater Peoria EDC and the CEDS Committee are committed to improving data collection and tracking of the region’s DEI in relation to economic development.  Here are few data tools we are researching:

The Data – County Profiles

Each of the five counties in the Greater Peoria economic development district are unique.  Although combining the data of all five counties gives us a regional snapshot of economic wellbeing, it is important to understand differences at the county level.  These profiles help us understand how economic development differs between our urban and rural counties.

SWOT Analysis

This analysis combines the region’s economic Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats identified through a combination of public meetings and economic development professional working groups listed below.

The Big Table: Greater Peoria
Nearly 700 residents from around the region participated in the inaugural Big Table event in October 2019. Their discussions focused on four major areas: workforce development, diversity and inclusion, innovation and entrepreneurship, and quality of life and place.

Between December 2019 and February 2020, five additional “Rural Matters” events were held, one in each of the Greater Peoria Economic Development District counties. A total of 240 residents participated. Shared themes surfaced at all five events such as quality of life, small business development, broadband access, education, historic preservation and agriculture.

Between June and September 2020, three virtual events focused on racial and criminal justice and organizational policies. In October 2020 the second annual regional event was held virtually where 748 participants expanded the discussion around the previous year’s themes.

Full reports from those events can be found at www.bigtablegp.com

CEDS Committee & Working Groups
In a series of meetings, the region’s professionals in the fields of economic development, government administration, community development, health and social services and leaders from the private business community conducted a SWOT analysis.

The Greater Peoria EDC CEDS Committee initiated the SWOT analysis over.  That was followed up with input from the Technical Working Group, a monthly gathering coordinated by the GPEDC with participation from economic development practitioners, city and county administrators, mayors and business leaders.

The following pages contain the consensus from these regionwide discussions.


Key Innovation Assets

Greater Peoria is home to nationally recognized public and private research and development facilities for agriculture, healthcare, manufacturing and autonomous mobility. The USDA NCAUR, OSF Jump Simulation Center, Caterpillar, Bradley University, Illinois Central College, Natural Fiber Welding and AutonomouStuff are all leaders in R&D for our region’s top industries.

These organizations are resources for our region’s existing businesses, entrepreneurs and innovators. They also bring outside businesses, institutions and individuals into our region, which creates an opportunity for business and talent attraction. Peoria’s participation in the Illinois Innovation Network connects the region to a statewide coordinated effort to retain and attract innovative entrepreneurs and businesses.

Logistical Advantages

The region is strategically located for economic development. The leading natural feature is the Illinois River, connecting the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. Multiple interstates connect the region to numerous major Midwest cities within a day’s drive. An airport serves residents and businesses and is an international port of entry for freight.

Amtrak stations in Lincoln, Normal and Galesburg provide passenger rail options. These factors make for a strategic hub of economic activity as well as a convenient location for people desiring a lower cost of living with relatively easy access to major cities for additional business and recreation activities.

Established Industry Clusters

The healthcare, manufacturing, agriculture and human service sectors are well established in the region. This opens the window for increased business development in those industries and their supply chains. This foundation of traditional industries sets a foundation for innovation in areas such as agtech and diversified agriculture systems, food manufacturing, autonomous mobility systems, sustainable textiles and building materials, Industry 4.0 engineering and manufacturing, healthcare delivery and medical devices.

Strong Educational Institutions

Opportunities for quality postsecondary education abound: Illinois Central College, Bradley University, Eureka College, Methodist College, St. Francis Medical Center College of Nursing, University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria, Lincoln College, Heartland Community College, Spoon River College.

The region also has highly ranked public schools in Dunlap, Metamora and Washington and career and technical programs at Peoria and Pekin public schools.

Low Cost of Living & Doing Business

With lower costs of living and business operations, budgets go further here. People spend less time and money commuting. The low cost of living to income ratio means people can more easily achieve the quality of life and lifestyle they seek. A robust network of human services increases quality of life and opportunities for residents.

Agriculture & Natural Resources

An estimated 1.5 million acres of the region’s land is used for agriculture production. Much of this land is positioned over the Mahomet and Sankoty Aquifers, which provide essential water resources. The Illinois River valley provides not only aesthetic variety, but also holds numerous resources that enhance both the economy and quality of life—from national conservation areas utilized for research to tourism and recreation opportunities including, boating, hiking, camping, hunting and fishing.

Diversity of People, Places & Lifestyles

Positioned around the mid-size city of Peoria, the Greater Peoria region contains a diversity of amenities and lifestyle opportunities—urban to rural. From the loft-style apartment and condo options of Peoria’s Warehouse District, to the suburban living in Germantown Hills, to the historic riverside Main Street community of Havana, there are many choices for where and how to live. A diversity of people, cultures and histories also exists.


Dependence on Large Employers

Our region must continue to mitigate our lack of industrial diversity by focusing time, energy and investment in building up industries and businesses beyond heavy manufacturing and healthcare. This does not mean we ignore or take for granted those industries, but rather find ways to build complementary industries.

Pockets of Persistent Poverty

The aggregate five-county regional data can mislead conversation concerning poverty. Much nuance exists, especially in numerous census tracts in the City of Peoria and in rural areas such as Mason County. If we do not adequately address the root causes of these rural and urban pockets of persistent poverty, all other economic development goals may prove futile. Strategies and action plans must place equity at the top of the priority list. Until all people, regardless of race or geography, are able to actively participate and have equity in our economy, community and economic sustainability and resilience will elude us.

Auto-centric Transportation System

Connectivity within and among a region’s cities and connection to larger metropolitan areas are critical to both commerce and quality of life. Our region relies on automobile transportation and cities like Peoria have been designed to prioritize automobiles over people and quality communities. As we continue into the 21st century, we must diversify transportation options, create walkable, bikeable communities augmented with appropriate public transportation options and create more sustainable ways to conveniently move people and goods in and out of our region.

Lack of Post-Secondary Credentials

The lack of a postsecondary credential (whether it be a professional certification, a two or four year degree, or an advanced degree) stymies one’s ability to pursue economic opportunities and achieve the quality of life to which all are entitled. When entire communities lack access to economic opportunity because of a lack of access to education and training opportunities, the entire economic trajectory of a region falters. The lack of a sufficient percentage of postsecondary credentials throughout the region weakens our ability to achieve our community and economic development goals.

Lack of Early-Stage Startup Capital

To diversify the economy of the region, there must be a concerted effort to develop new business startups that in turn create jobs and increase the overall wealth of the region. Entrepreneurs in Greater Peoria find it difficult to secure the critical early-stage startup capital necessary to launch new business ventures. There is a level of risk aversion within the local-regional investment community, and from outside investors, that inhibits the development of a critical mass of business startups that could generate meaningful, sustainable economic activity.


Innovation: Healthcare, Food and Farming Systems & Smart Mobility

As a member of the Illinois Innovation Network (a statewide initiative led by the University of Illinois Discovery Partners Institute) Greater Peoria can position itself as an active innovation leader of in Central Illinois. The development of Distillery Labs will enable entrepreneurs, corporate partners, students and research organizations to more effectively and efficiently collaborate. This collaboration will accelerate economic development in the areas of healthcare delivery, food and farming systems, and smart mobility systems. Beyond the downtown Peoria facility, additional facilities and programming can extend throughout the region to create an innovation ecosystem inclusive of areas such as underserved urban and rural communities.

Opportunity Zone Investment

With eight designated Opportunity Zones in the Greater Peoria region, a potential for private investment exists for developers, existing businesses and startups. The Opportunity Zones in the region contain a mix of industrial, commercial, residential and agricultural properties, opening the region to a diversity of investments. Combined with existing development efforts such as Peoria’s Warehouse district and Havana’s Historic Main Street, these zones have the potential to increase the momentum of revitalization and redevelopment initiatives. Opportunity Zones can also be utilized as an incentive to attract businesses, especially startups seeking Opportunity Fund investors. Emerging opportunities exist in agriculture as well, from alternative crops such as industrial hemp and agroforestry products, to Controlled Environment Agriculture facilities.

Capitalize on Water Resources

The Illinois River is one of our region’s greatest natural assets, providing opportunities for commerce, recreation and conservation. It is the connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Beyond the typical commercial transportation opportunities provided by a river, unique opportunities exist, such as capitalizing on the mitigation of Asian carp, an invasive species. A revitalized port district and Port Statistical Area designation could increase commercial activity and provide regional businesses more opportunity to export and import goods. Improving the health of the river through greater conservation efforts could increase the utilization of the river for recreational activities and tourism.

"Live Here, Work Anywhere"

As technology continues to impact the nature of jobs, Greater Peoria can position itself as a hub for remote and contract workers. With a focus on quality of life and access to amenities such as high-speed internet and affordable housing, Greater Peoria could retain and attract individuals and families desiring a lower cost of living without sacrificing lifestyle preferences.

Retain & Attract Retirees

With a low cost of living, abundant healthcare options, an array of amenities, and easy travel options, Greater Peoria could be marketed as an ideal location for retirement. Both retaining the region’s retirees and promoting our region outwardly to retirees looking to relocate could benefit the region. Keeping the region’s retirees participating in the economy and continuing to invest numerous forms of capital (financial, social, political, knowledge) is important to building resiliency. Attracting new residents to the area is important across all age groups, but attracting retirees may be an overlooked opportunity as they bring with them great value (spending and investing locally, volunteering, etc).

Large Metro & Coastal Migration

Reports in recent years have predicted that the growing climate crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic and inflated housing markets may be causing residents of larger metropolitan areas and coastal areas to grow increasingly wary (and weary) of the future livability of those places. As a centrally located region with a moderate climate and low population density, Greater Peoria is a prime location for those seeking escape from large or coastal cities.


Continued Population Loss

Despite predictions of migration from large metros to smaller ones, the last decade has in reality been the opposite. Greater Peoria continues to experience overall outmigration. If we can not retain or attract residents to the region, the reduced population will continue to ripple throughout the economy resulting in reduced workforce, vacant properties, reduced tax base and deteriorating infrastructure.

Illinois Business Climate

The Illinois regulatory burden is perceived to be higher than other states, especially in the area of worker’s compensation. Corporate tax rates are relatively low, but property taxes are very high. The state is perceived as having a “high cost of doing business” but that is due largely to Chicago and not downstate. The state’s looming pension crisis also creates business uncertainty.

Shrinkage of Dominant Employers

The company towns of yesteryear can no longer sustain themselves or take for granted the presence and good will of a dominant employer. Monocultures cannot be sustainably maintained on an indefinite scale. Economic diversity is mandatory to weather downturns of any one business or industry.

Aging Population

As the Baby Boomer generation continues to age out of the workforce, there is a greater need to retain and attract people to the region to maintain the workforce needs of employers and to create the next generation of businesses located here. Until recently, Baby Boomers were the largest generation and will continue to require an unprecedented level of senior health and housing needs in the years ahead. As stated in the opportunities section, retirees and the aging population can be a great asset to a region. But we must ensure a quality of life and the ability for more residents to age in place.

Shifting Retail Industry

The traditional brick-and-mortar retail industry continues to experience a great upheaval in the face of e-commerce. Nationally, chain establishments are increasingly facing bankruptcies and store closures. Locally owned retail businesses have shuttered or limped along in recent decades under the pressure of large retailers with whom they have not been able to compete. Box stores have decimated local retailers and are now prey to e-commerce giants. The dwindling supply of brick-and-mortar retail in the region’s commercial districts threatens both the economy and quality of life.

Rural Migration & Business Succession

Beyond the general outmigration from the region as a whole, our region’s rural communities continue to lose residents and businesses. Due to the lack of interest from family or local entrepreneurs to assume ownership and operations, the remaining businesses find it difficult to develop and execute succession plans. This leads to additional business closures. Succession planning is also an issue for farm families and can lead to further consolidation of land, making it more difficult for beginning farmers to acquire land for small farm businesses.

Climate Change & Natural Resource Degradation

Climate change is expected to increase variability in crop and agriculture production by detrimentally impacting water resources. The combined effects of climate change, land use change and invasive species growth alter the Midwest’s natural ecosystems. Precipitation in the Midwest is expected to become more intense and lead to increased flood damage, strained drainage systems and reduced drinking water availability.

What is the CEDS?

The Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) is a regional planning document required by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (U.S. EDA) for any federally designated Economic Development District (EDD).  It is a tool for organizing and coordinating a region’s economic development goals and an official document that increases access to funding resources.  The EDA recognizes the counties of Logan, Mason, Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford (Greater Peoria) as an EDD.

What is The Big Table?

Beginning in 2019, the Greater Peoria EDC was one of numerous partners involved in launching The Big Table: Greater Peoria, a series of public events meant to generate conversations and connections across the region’s diverse communities toward the shared goal of making Greater Peoria a great place to live, work and play—for everyone.

The first event was held at the Peoria Civic Center in October 2019 and drew more than 700 participants.  Over the following 12 months, a dozen more Big Table events were held in all five of the Greater Peoria counties.  All of these gatherings, held both in person and virtually, covered a range of topics.  Those topics included business and workforce development, innovation, racial justice, rural development and quality of life.  Collectively, these events drew an attendance of 1,500 of the region’s residents.

A successful CEDS is created through an inclusive, analytical and reflective planning process and results in a measurable road map to regional economic prosperity.  This CEDS is Greater Peoria’s roadmap.  It has been guided by the region’s diverse stakeholders who have collectively envisioned our region’s future through The Big Table: Greater Peoria initiative.

Over the next five years, the Greater Peoria CEDS Committee and the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council will monitor the region’s economic progress and continue building the partnerships necessary to achieve the CEDS goals.   The Big Table: Greater Peoria events will continue to serve as an important platform to share CEDS updates and maintain consistent communication with the public.

The Process & Parts

A CEDS must be updated at least every five years to remain an active Economic Development District.  To produce the latest updated CEDS, the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council and the Greater Peoria CEDS Committee led a months-long process between 2019 and 2020. That work wrapped up in late 2020 and was captured in the 2021-2025 Big Table: Greater Peoria CEDS document.  It was submitted to the U.S. EDA and approved in February 2021.  This page contains the key parts of that strategy.

On this page you will first see the Goals, Strategies & Tactics section followed by the Tracking Progress section.  This is meant to get to the point: what are we trying to achieve and how are we measuring progress?  At the end of the day, this is what the CEDS is all about.  It gives the many stakeholders of the region’s economy a shared “to-do list” over a fixed period of time and a data-based gauge to check the results of our collective work.

Who are those stakeholders, exactly?  They are the people that call Greater Peoria home.  The people that live here, run businesses here, raise their families here.  How do they do this work together?  As the people that run our region’s businesses, educational institutions, governments, and nonprofit organizations.  Whether you are a student or a teacher, a business owner or employee, an elected official or a voter, you have a stake in our economy.  And there is a way for everyone to participate in the strategies to make it better.

Every person should feel they have the opportunity to lead a fulfilling, quality life here.  Every person should feel a sense of ownership in our shared economy.  Every person and community should be empowered to generate wealth.  The truth is that the economy currently leaves many people out and a variety of economic challenges leave our region vulnerable.  The CEDS goals are meant to build an economy that is more equitable, sustainable, and provides more people with quality of life.

Below these quick-start sections, we have provided some of The Data that was collected and analyzed to provide the CEDS Committee with a data-driven understanding of the region’s economy.  These data were used in shaping both the economic goals and the metrics being used to track progress.

The SWOT Analysis  (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) was developed through a combination of public meetings and economic development professional working groups.  This is where The Big Table: Greater Peoria played a leading role and was supported by an additional SWOT analysis performed by the CEDS Committee and the Technical Working Group (a monthly gathering of the region’s economic development professionals).  This analysis provides a more anecdotal assessment of the region’s economy and reflects what stakeholders feel are the main opportunities and challenges we face in achieving greater sustainability and economic inclusiveness.

Still want more?  Great!  Keep digging by browsing the Learn More section to track down the numerous partners and plans at play in the collective effort to meet the CEDS goals over the next five years.  We also welcome your feedback through the Contact section.  Tell us what we can improve or ask how you, your business, your organization, or your city can get more involved in regional economic development!

Creating the CEDS and then putting it into action is anything but simple and far from a solitary task.  Although the Greater Peoria EDC is responsible for creating and delivering the strategy, it takes numerous collaborators throughout the region to accomplish its goals.  Here you will find links to the many different partners and associated plans working together to build a more equitable and sustainable regional economy.

This CEDS serves as a general umbrella to for the numerous specialized strategies and action plans of the region’s many partners involved in economic development of the Greater Peoria region. Implementation of this CEDS relies on implementing and measuring those plans. This list will grow as regional partners continue to share local and organizational plans to link to the 2021-2025 CEDS:

2020 Regional Food System Strategy
2020-2022 Community Health Improvement Plan
A Plan to Revitalize the Illinois Economy and Build the Workforce of the Future
Asian Carp Action Plan
City of El Paso Comprehensive Plan
City of Havana 
City of Peoria Comprehensive Plan
City of Washington: Comprehensive Plan
City of West Peoria Comprehensive Plan
Delavan Commercial Corridor Plan
FARM Illinois Plan
Germantown Hills Comprehensive Plan
Mahoment Aquifer Protection Task Force: Findings & Recommendations
Morton Momentum
Nature Conservancy reThink Soil
Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy
Peoria City/County Health Dept. Strategic Plan
Peoria County Comprehensive Land Use Plan
Peoria Lakes Comprehensive Conservation Plan
Tazewell County Comprehensive Land Use Plan
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Regional/Local Plan

Please contact csetti@greaterpeoriaedc.org if you would like your organization’s plan or relevant reports included in this list.

Committee MemberCEDS Affiliation
Clint Heinold (Chair)CORE Construction
Amanda BeadlesCity of Chillicothe
Ann SassoVillage of Germantown Hills
Audrey KammCEO Council
Cesar SuarezCity of Peoria Economic Development
Chuck NagelWoodford County
Courtney EetenMorton Chamber of Commerce/EDC
Curt JibbenMason County Health Department
David BlankenshipLogan County
David VaughnCareer Link
Deborah RoethlerCity of Peoria Economic Development
Denise MooreMinority Business Development Center
Fred StewartLISC
Jake HamannPeoria Innovation Alliance
James DillonWest Central Illinois Building Construction Trades
Jane GenzelPeoria Opportunities Foundation
JD DalfonsoPeoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
Jim DrewLogan County Farm Bureau
Jim JohnsonPrivate Citizen
Jonathan WilliamsCommerce Bank
Leigh Ann BrownMorton Chamber of Commerce/EDC
Leslie McKnightPeoria County Health Department
Mark RobertsCommunity Foundation of Central Illinois
Matt FickCity of Pekin/City of Delavan
Michael JosephUnityPoint Health
Mike HinrichsenVillage of Germantown Hills
Mike WaightIllinois Manufacturing Excellence Center
Nicole FrederickHeart of Illinois United Way
Paula NachtriebIllinois Central College
Rachael ParkerPeoria County; Sweet Cakes by Rachael
Ray LeesTri-County Regional Planning Commission
Reuben CummingsNerevu Group
William BlessmanMason County
Yvonne LongHawk-Attollo, LLC

The creation of this document relied primarily on reports produced between 2019-2020 by the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council with assistance from University of Illinois Extension, the Big Table: Greater Peoria lead organization the CEO Council, and Illinois Central College:

The Big Table: Greater Peoria – 2019 Report
The Big Table: Greater Peoria – 2020 Report
The Big Table: Rural Matters Report
“Greater Peoria Economic Analysis” by Arum Lee, Graduate Candidate, University of Illinois, Department of Urban & Regional Planning
Greater Peoria EDC “Greater Peoria DataHub” Website
“Peoria County Racial Disparities Data for African Americans/Black,” by Charity A. Gunn, Racial Justice and Equity Coordinator, Illinois Central College


How do we move our economy into the future?  With partnership!  Whether you are a resident, business, nonprofit organization, elected official, or any other stakeholder, you should feel ownership in this process.  If you want to get it involved, we want to hear from you!  We also want to answer any questions you have about the CEDS and the work ahead.

Chris Setti

CEO, Greater Peoria EDC



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