Heartland Partnership chairman joins regional steering group

of the Journal Star
Posted Sep 04, 2012 @ 02:00 PM

PEORIA —The divide between economic development forces in the Peoria community may be narrowing.
Mark Spenny, chairman of an embattled Heartland Partnership, has been named to the Regional Economic Steering Committee.

“We are very much looking forward to being more intimately involved with the development and ultimately the implementation of a new economic plan for the greater Peoria region,” Spenny said in a prepared statement.

The umbrella group that includes the Economic Development Council for Central Illinois as well as the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, Heartland has taken public criticism for its job in promoting economic development. At the same time, the steering committee, with high-level representation from across the region, has seized control of the area’s economic development reins.

While the steering committee has set up planning meetings, the Heartland Partnership has been losing staff. CEO Jim McConoughey resigned in July; then last month, Heartland announced the reduction of seven positions, two of which are full time.

Cal MacKay, Heartland’s interim CEO, said the organization would go through “both short-term changes and long-term changes.” He lauded Spenny’s appointment to the steering committee. “Sitting at the table allows us a more integrative approach. This is a great thing for Heartland Partnership and for economic development and the region,” he said.

The appointment will make better use of area resources, said MacKay. “While there’s been some coordination (between the steering committee and Heartland), there hasn’t been enough as needed,” he said.
“We know there needs to be a new direction for economic development in this community. We fully support that, but there also needs to be more collaboration,” said MacKay.

Steering committee chairman Jim Baumgartner also echoed the call for collaboration.

“Having Mark Spenny on our committee allows for more dialogue between the entities. We are all on the same team and moving in the same direction,” he said in a news release.

Steve Tarter can be reached at 686-3260 or starter@pjstar.com. Follow his blog, Minding Business, on pjstar.com and follow him on Twitter @SteveTarter