A Call to Action

Jeff Griffin, Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce

In the Chamber of Commerce business, I am constantly surrounded by projects in various stages of development. To see ideas big and small come together is exciting and inspirational, to say the least. From a ribbon cutting for a small business launching a lifelong dream, to large multi-million-dollar construction projects, the human spirit is inspirational. 

Fact is, we are an eager bunch and we want to hear about “wins.” When I’m out and about and someone asks what’s new, the worst response I can give is a shrug and “I dunno.” Chamber presidents who travel that path very quickly become former Chamber presidents. 

What happens often, however, is that I will give some news of construction, a new program or a project under development, and I am rewarded with a smile and a nod. After an initial optimistic exchange and glass-all-the-way-full remarks, I’m met with something like this:

  • “You really think that’s gonna happen?”
  • “We tried that in ’85 and it fell on its face.”
  • “Springfield will mess it up somehow.”

At this point, one of two things happen: 1) I am energized enough to offer my interrogator some more reasons to smile; or 2) I find a reason to be somewhere else and politely move on to avoid the most impolite moment of my head exploding. I think I can pull off the first option for one simple reason: I don’t get out of bed in the morning thinking that nothing I’m about to do will make a difference. I couldn’t do it. I’ve had a job like that, and I made it a former job as quickly as I could. 

The point I am driving toward is a call to action for all of us: We need to develop and grow our community pride and can-do attitude for our region. We need to build upon Mayor Ardis’ State of the City Address, in which he challenged us to change the narrative. We need to celebrate and promote what each of us—and our businesses—bring to the table in terms of solutions. I believe this is the most important development we could make right now. 

The timing is right for such a message, and as we move forward, we are reminded of our region’s strong history of innovation and invention. The Peoria Riverfront Museum has dedicated all of 2019 to this spirit of invention. You see, we do not have to re-invent Peoria. We simply need to develop a new attitude: one of respect for our past history, but with a laser focus on the good things to come. 

I would much rather spend my time visiting with someone looking toward the future with optimism and energy, than those lamenting the days gone by. Some have heard me say this before, but with the resources at my fingertips, I have Chamber colleagues across the country who would love to trade places with me. We have 1,000 Chamber members and more than 60 CEO Council members who voluntarily support our community and economic development initiatives daily. Why? Because we all know that we are better when we are part of something greater than ourselves. 

Throughout 2019, you are going to hear more about these efforts. I invite you to get on board and be part of the solution. We have plenty of room for everyone! iBi

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