By Bill Fleming, Executive Director
Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce
By now you’ve probably heard about Excel Foundry and Machine’s $15 million dollar investment in their plant, equipment and infrastructure at their Pekin facility. This will create 100 new head-of-household jobs at Excel, plus additional construction jobs during the expansion work. That is on top of the 98 new jobs that were created by Excel in 2011.
Excel is a rising star in the Illinois manufacturing sector, thanks to the leadership of their employees and President/CEO Doug Parsons. In the last decade their annual sales have increased from $10 million dollars to nearly $100 million dollars. Yes, manufacturing is alive and well right here in Pekin.
The January 17th announcement at the Excel facility on Wagonseller Road included remarks by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, Congressman Aaron Schock, State Senators Dave Koehler and Darin LaHood, and State Representative Mike Unes. Also in attendance were numerous county, township and area officials and business leaders. You can see some picture from the announcement event at: http://picasaweb.google.com/PekinChamber.
All of the speakers noted the bi-partisan support and the large number of agencies and organizations that came together to move this project along. Prior to the start of the event, many of those in attendance discussed and praised that cooperative effort.
At the risk of leaving someone out, the players included Cincinnati Township, Tazewell County, City of Pekin, Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, Peoria/Pekin Urbanized Area Transportation Study (PPUATS), Economic Development Council for Central Illinois, Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), and the aforementioned congressman, state legislators and their staffs.
And, last but not least on the list is the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce. Our role in this project was small, but important. It didn’t involve money or grants or engineering expertise. Our role was a common one for a chamber of commerce: we provided the forum for a group of people to come together and then move forward.
In addition to the private investment in plant and infrastructure, nearly $2.5 million dollars will be invested in upgrades to Wagonseller Road. That will include intersection improvements at Townline Road and Manito Blacktop, as well as improvements to Wagonseller Road.
It was at the chamber’s Transportation Committee meeting in May of 2011 that committee member and Cincinnati Township Road Commissioner Ron Hawkins brought up his concerns about the deteriorating condition of Wagonseller Road. Not only did we add Wagonseller Road to the committee’s monthly agenda, but we added it to our June 24th bus tour of local transportation projects.
It was on the bus tour that committee member John Anderson (Tazewell County’s Engineer) was able to show business, community and legislative leaders the challenges faced by Excel and others on Wagonseller Road.
Those discussions led to a meeting with Hawkins, Anderson, Parsons, area legislators, and representatives from DCEO and IDOT. That led to more meetings, a tour of Excel, more meetings, phone calls, more meetings, etc.
The chamber’s involvement with the project was finished after that first meeting after the bus tour. We got the ball rolling on one small part of the overall project, then fell back into a support role.
Our transportation committee (a wide-ranging mix of over 35 business and government leaders) will continue to meet each month, as we have for nearly 20 years, and work towards the improvement and enhancement of our area transportation infrastructure.