PEKIN — Gone are the days in Pekin when a single city employee was charged with drumming up new businesses to shore up the tax base and meet citizens’ needs.
Previously, the city relied on an economic development director who went to trade shows and economic development conventions, courted new business prospects and championed Pekin as the place to be.
The city now has a team of people working to bring new businesses to town — Pekin City Manager Tony Carson, City Planner Katy Shackelford, Building Inspection & Development Director John Lebeque, GIS Cordinator Dan Newcomb and local organizations.
“There are different aspects of each person on that team,” said Shackelford. “The things that I focus on a lot are infrastructure — making sure our infrastructure is on par with what developers are needing and the businesses we have in town. Is it serving their needs to the best and highest of our ability?”
Newcomb is the information technology expert for the team, supplying demographics and company information when the team goes out to recruit a business.
Lebeque is part of the team, said Carson, “because when you’re getting people (who are) looking at new construction, you want to make sure that the building department is on board from the very beginning so that they can provide all of the information, that there’s no surprises on what the requirements are going to be and making sure that we’re working with them to the approval process will be seamless.”
Carson brings to the table, he said, many years of experience as a city manager or administrator and business ownership, “being able to relate to some of the needs of the business community because it’s something I have done for many years in the past myself.”
The Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce also play a role. A chamber member sits of the Pekin Economic Development Advisory Board and on the Peoria Economic Development Council. Shackelford is a member of the Peoria EDC Board Technical Working Group and “through that, we are coordinating efforts, not only at the local level, but also at the regional level. That becomes really important. PAVCB would fall into our tourism committee ... bringing events or coordinating events.”
“Both tourism and economic development have a really strong component of quality of life — improving the quality of life for the community of Pekin because you want a place where people want to come visit, your want a place where people want to come live and, in all of that, in both aspects we are looking at where we can enhance community assets, where we can beautify the community and where we can bring about positive change across the board,” Shackelford said.
Carson said he has already had 90 visits with local businesses and community leaders.
He said, “Economic development is a process that doesn’t always move as quickly as we want it to.”
Shackelford said Pekin is not trying to be the new Morton or East Peoria.
“We’re going to be the best Pekin and that’s where our focus is at,” he said.
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin