PEORIA — The group charged with building up the region's economy will add some diversity to its ranks.

Earlier this month, the board of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council agreed to require at least five members on their panel come from underrepresented groups.

It's the end result of a discussion that has gone on over the last several months among members of the group's executive board, pushed by Peoria County Board chairman Andrew Rand, who sits on the EDC board.

In the past, board members have essentially been selected from among those who contribute financially toward membership in the organization.

"We serve the entire region, and we really recognize that there are diverse voices and diverse experiences in the region that we didn't really have a way of capturing through our traditional method of seating a board of directors," Chris Setti, the CEO of the EDC, said in an interview.

Hence the creation of the new group of members, who, he said, could represent racial or gender diversity as well as diversity of geography — with the panel representing five counties' territory — and even of industries.

The notion was to find ways to "help change the outcome for many central Illinoisans who are left behind in tough times and may not be getting the right amount of help or assistance or recognition," Rand told Peoria County Board members earlier this month.

Adding those seats should help with the EDC's overall work, Setti said.

"A large part of the efforts that we're going about, especially on the employment side and the workforce development side, is how do we get our hardest to reach populations and hardest to serve populations," he said. "So we needed some voices that could help us identify issues and barriers and solutions in those areas."

There are some 34 members of the board on the EDC, with bylaws authorizing up to 41.

Two slots on the group's executive board will also be reserved for diversity members. The executive board meets monthly, while the full board meets quarterly.

One individual will also be guaranteed a seat on the board's nominating committee, which selects future board members.

Members of the board will be working to identify individuals interested in serving in those positions over the coming months and adding them to the board by late this year or early next year, Setti said.

"We're looking forward to reaching out and finding those diverse voices to make our board look a little more like the region," he said.