Area chambers unite

Stephanie Gomes
Jennifer Daly is the executive director and CEO of the Morton Economic Development Council and the Morton Chamber of Commerce

Joining together to make their voices heard, area chambers of commerce have planned a trip to the state capital next month.

The chambers in Chillicothe, East Peoria, Morton, Pekin, Peoria and Washington have created a coalition called the Central Illinois Regional Chambers Legislative Effort (CIRCLE). 

The announcement was made Thursday at the Heartland Partnership Office in Peoria.

“This is our first opportunity where we are getting together and trying to have an impact on what happens in Springfield as a group,” said Roberta Parks, president of the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce.

The CIRCLE group plans to meet with legislatures about five different areas: public pension reform, workers compensation issues, full funding and implementation of the capital program, slow payment cycles from the state and education funding, Park said.

The trip will take place March 2, and the goal is to take 75 to 100 people, who represent all of the chambers, Parks said.

“None of us is suggesting we’re going to change the world with one trip to Springfield,” Parks said. “But you’ve got to start some place, you’ve got to start making your voice heard. We felt there was much more strength in numbers. ... and at some point, numbers count.”

Rick Swan, executive director of the East Peoria Chamber of Commerce, commended Jennifer Daly, director of the Morton Chamber of Commerce, for getting the ball rolling on the project.

When Daly worked at a chamber of commerce in Iowa, area chambers often joined efforts, she said.

“I think that our legislatures really appreciate when we come collectively with the most important issues for our areas,” Daly said. “It’s a much more powerful message when we come with a big group of people with a united message.”

Carol Hamilton, director of the Washington Chamber of Commerce — one of the smaller chambers in the area with only 280 members — said banding together will help their small chamber.

“We feel that our voice can be heard just a little bit louder when we have numbers,” she said.

East Peoria Mayor Dave Mingus was there to show his support for the collaboration, too.

“I think this is a great collaborative effort by the various chambers,” he said. “I commend them for uniting and identifying community interests.”

The trip is open to both chamber members and non-members. The cost is $75 and includes a delegate breakfast, luncheon and briefing sessions with legislatures.

Buses will leave at 5:45 a.m. from East Peoria or 6 a.m. from Morton.

For more information, or to register for the trip, visit the Morton Chamber of Commerce’s Web site at www.mortonchamber.org.