Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday. Sure, when I was a kid nothing quite beat the excitement of Christmas morning. But as I’ve grown older, I have realized that the time spent with family and friends without all the commercial hoopla is a vastly superior occasion. The original plan was to drop our monthly newsletter in your inboxes right before Thanksgiving. Things don’t always work out as planned, though, which makes an article about thankfulness seem a bit late. But in reality, reflecting on our blessings should not be limited to just one day.
We usually take this time to be thankful for what we have as individuals and families. But what can we be thankful for as a region? First, we can be thankful for a growing economy. Let’s face it, the past few years have been tough for Greater Peoria and all of Illinois. But recently we are seeing strong hiring in our largest employment sectors: manufacturing, health care and agriculture. This has been spurred by the traditional regional powerhouses like Caterpillar, Unity Point Health and OSF Healthcare. But the same can said for smaller but just as important companies like RLI, Pekin Insurance, Keystone, Morton Industries, G&D Integrated and ATS.
We can also be thankful for being a center for innovation in the Midwest (and the country!). I don’t think the average resident realizes the amazing depth of innovation resources we have in Greater Peoria. Over 3,000 engineers are working in Caterpillar’s Mossville Tech Center, developing the next generation of Cat equipment. At Jump Trading Simulation and Training Center, medical professionals are pioneering new procedures and devices to improve health and save lives. Researchers at the University of Illinois College of Medicine are working to discover cures for cancer. Peoria is home to the largest federally funded agricultural utilization laboratory. Precision Planting is revolutionizing planting systems while AutonomouStuff is a world leader in the field of autonomous mobility. The future of Greater Peoria’s economy is closely tied to employing these innovation assets.
Finally, we should be thankful for an amazing culture of giving in our community. At the end of October – just about halfway into their 2018 campaign – Heart of Illinois United Way reported that it had already raised over $7.7 million from thousands of individuals and over 300 local companies and organizations. That culture of giving extends beyond monetary donations to donations of time. This really hit me at our CareerSpark event held in late October. We made sure we touted the fact that over 4,200 eighth graders had a chance to explore careers in hands-on and engaging experiences. But just as impressive was the fact that over 400 volunteers made those experiences happen. If you haven’t seen our wrap up video, check it out here. Every person you see in a blue CareerSpark t-shirt is taking time out of their day to help shape the future of tomorrow’s workforce.
I am personally thankful for each and every one of you reading this newsletter because you are all making a difference in your community and our region. On behalf of the board and staff of Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, thank you for your contributions to our economy.
– Chris Setti, CEO of the Greater Peoria Economic Council