Well, 2017 is almost over and Peoria is still standing.
That’s quite an accomplishment, if you think back to last winter. Not far into the new year, Peoria was suddenly dazed and reeling from a one-two combo punch involving Caterpillar Inc. — first the HQ goodbye, then the federal raid. That’s dizzying news to absorb over any one year, let alone over a scant 31 days early in the calendar.
Sunday, the Journal Star will run its annual rankings of the year’s top stories. My guess is, Cat should make a pretty decent showing — maybe even higher than Portillo’s.
Cat, of course, always has been a huge Peoria newsmaker. On the last day of 2016, the Journal Star ran its roundup of the year’s big stories: “No. 1: Cuts at Caterpillar.” Ah, yes: Remember those good ol' days — those carefree, pre-snub, pre-raid days — when all we worried about were mere job losses?
In the synopsis of last year’s top-ranked story, the first sentence carries phrasing that feels biting in hindsight: “It would be easy, but ultimately inaccurate, to sum up 2016 for the corporation synonymous with Peoria in one word: down.” One year later, the most “inaccurate” part of that statement would be a link between “the corporation” and “synonymous with Peoria.” That’s not true anymore, not entirely, as Caterpillar’s top brass now plot operations and machinations in Deerfield.
The weird thing is, Deerfield doesn’t seem all that impressed by Cat. At least, that’s what I got from a year-end piece in the Deerfield Review, part of the Chicago Tribune empire. The Review’s review of local 2017 news was topped by Deerfield business developments. But the Big Yellow newcomer didn’t come close to leading the pack.
The biggest business news in Deerfield? The opening of a new grocery store.
Snore, you say? Well, it’s a really big grocery store. As one shopper raved, “You can get two carts down the aisle.”
Wow. How can the world’s earth-moving leader compete with that kind of shopping-cart fanfare?
Anyway, the story zips along to the next four big business breakthroughs in Deerfield. Residents there are excited about the announcements of four other new businesses: two furniture shops, a department store and — hold on to your hats — a Chick-fil-A.
What about Caterpillar? Its arrival merits a few words, right after all the chicken-joint excitement:
“Also in the Lake Cook Corridor, Caterpillar, Inc., began moving into its new corporate headquarters.”
Aside from a Cat-free quote by the Deerfield mayor, that’s the lone Cat reference. Perhaps in Deerfield, the welcome wagon is a unicycle.
After the quick Cat mention, the Review recounts other incoming businesses, including a Domino’s and a dentist’s office. Yowza! With all that going on in Deerfield, it’s not like a Fortune 100 corporation can hog all the precious newsprint, right?
Granted, Deerfield is no podunk burg in the middle of nowhere. Chicagoland is a big place, with many big players. There, Cat can enjoy a bigger airport — or swankier shopping, or tonier ZIP codes, or whatever the real reason HQ moved there.
I’m not sure if there’s any great meaning to glean from all this. Perhaps news is neither as bad nor good as it sometimes seems, depending on a change of vantage via time or place.
For Peoria, I guess it means that we continue to keep our chin up, knowing we can take a nasty punch or two, then keep trying to move forward. Plus, it’s not as if 2018 — by Caterpillar or otherwise — can hit us any harder.
PHIL LUCIANO is a Journal Star columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/philluciano and (309) 686-3155. Follow him on Twitter.com/LucianoPhil.