Looking to keep a pulse on the massive effort to improve the region’s economic development model, or to at least try to make heads or tails of the multi-faceted efforts, Tazewell County Board Chairman David Zimmerman held the first meeting of the Economic Development Policy Committee Dec. 8.
Zimmerman formed the committee in response to the efforts of the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission to reorganize regional efforts to bolster the economy in Tazewell, Woodford, Peoria and Mason counties and to set up regional goals and improve cooperation among groups at the county, city and regional levels.
The TCRPC hired a consultant firm from Maryland called Vital Economy, which is run by a man named Frank Knott.
“This group will kind of oversee and help guide from Tazewell’s perspective where we’re going with (community economic development),” Zimmerman said. “It gives us a chance to see where we’re at and where we’re headed.”
The committee is made up of Zimmerman, board Vice Chairman Tim Neuhauser, board member Nancy Proehl and board member Russ Crawford. County Community Development Director Krystal Deininger attended, as did Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce President Bill Fleming, who sits on the subgroup that is working on Tazewell’s individual goals, while a subgroup does the same for each of the other three counties involved.
The picture that arose of the project — which is in Phase 1, according to Fleming — is one of an increasingly intricate and confusing web of economic development groups that are supposed to eventually work together in a well-ordered harmony. Predictably, some communication has been lost in the tangle: Fleming said that the representatives on the Tazewell Technical Committee do not know what happens at the Steering Committee on any regular basis. The Steering Committee is the main TCRPC body charged with running the whole show, basically.
Neuhauser serves on the action committee that is responsible for recommending how best to reorganize the now-gutted Central Illinois Economic Development Commission, which Vital Economy identified as ineffective in its study of the efforts in the region. He simplified the goals of the entire project.
“When I saw the list, I didn’t realize some of the organizations that exist today,” Neuhauser said. “There’s really a lot of resources out there. I think one of the things that Frank’s group identified is there may be some redundancies, there may be some overlap — and I think the idea here is to help define who’s where and who’s doing what so we can maximize everybody’s resources in regards to doing (economic development) and develop a staffing plan, budget and performance measures.”
What is clear from Tuesday’s meeting is that in order to complete Phase 1 of the project, the county board needs to approve a set of goals for the county by the end of February and that when the Central Illinois EDC is finally reborn from the ashes, Zimmerman said he would like it to be based out of Tazewell County because it geographically makes sense.