Many people have asked what’s happening with the Focus Forward CI effort in Tazewell County. Bill Fleming, Executive Director of the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce, and chair of the Tazewell County team provided this update. (You can learn more about the entire Focus Forward CI initiative at: www.focusforwardci.com.)
I would characterize Tazewell County as early adopters of Focus Forward CI. Last September Tazewell County Administrator Michael Freilinger appointed a diverse group of economic development professionals and business leaders from throughout the county to our committee. We’ve lost a couple members but added some new members, too. Below is a list of the people that have been involved on our committee.
- John Anderson, County Engineer, Tazewell County
- Kathie Brown, Leadership in Local Government Extension Educator, University of Illinois Extension
- Leslie Cameron, Branch Manager, Heartland Bank - Delavan
- Kristal Deininger, Community Development Administrator, Tazewell County
- August Eilts, Village President, Village of Hopedale
- Wendy Ferrill, Treasurer/Comptroller, Village of Morton
- Kristi Fitzanko, Senior Sales Executive, Ameren
- Bill Fleming, Executive Director, Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce
- Michael Freilinger, County Administrator, Tazewell County
- Shelly Hranka, Owner, Pyramid Printing
- Steve Jaeger, Executive Director, Heart of Illinois Regional Port District
- Ty Livingston, Director of Planning & Community Development, City of East Peoria
- Steven W. Martin, Assistant Director Workforce Development / Career Link
- Leigh Ann Matthews, Economic Development Coordinator, City of Pekin
- Jon Oliphant, Planning & Development Director, City of Washington
- Chevie Ruder, Executive Director, Washington Chamber of Commerce
- Kay Sutton, Dean of Public Services, Community Outreach, ICC North, ICC South, Illinois Central College
- Rick Swan, Executive Director, East Peoria Chamber of Commerce
- Kim Uhlig, Business Development Director, Morton Chamber of Commerce/EDC
Our committee first met on October 4th. We met four times in October and early November, discussing our purpose and also planning the Tazewell County asset mapping event we held on November 13th at the Ashland House in Morton.
After a wrap up of that event, we met a few more times to plan the vertical asset mapping event on Education & Workforce Development held on January 8th at ICC South in Pekin.
Since then we’ve met about three times each month. To date we’ve completed the following tasks:
- We prepared a SWOT analysis of economic development in Tazewell County.
- We took the regional list of unique assets and pared it down to Tazewell-specific assets. We also added a few more assets to the list.
- We filtered the assets and, combined with industry concentrations identified our high value / high demand industry clusters.
- We took the regional SMART goals and developed our country specific measurements. We even broke a few of those goals down to the municipal level for Pekin, Morton, East Peoria, and Washington.
As we work towards the July celebration milestone event, our Tazewell team has several important tasks yet to complete:
- Finalize the draft of our county’s primary issues of challenges and opportunities
- Plan a vertical asset mapping of the county’s TDL (Transportation, Distribution and Logistics) assets. The committee sees this as our county’s highest value / highest demand industry cluster.
- Conduct additional rural outreach to ensure we’re getting input and buy-in from some of the smaller communities in the county who have not been actively involved.
- Finalize the draft of our SMART goals, objectives, and action plans. We’ve already got a good start on this task. But we need to make sure it addresses our issues of challenge and opportunity, and that it is a balanced approach.
- Invest time validating our work with our elected officials – especially those in the four large municipalities and the country board.
It’s been a great journey so far. The people involved on our committee have been working as a team as we've moved through this process. We look forward to July, when we’ll present the final plan.