Three Outcomes of Infrastructure Investment

by Michael J. Freilinger
Downtown Development Corporation of Peoria

Infrastructure investment is driving economic development in Peoria’s downtown.

Investments in modern infrastructure lay the important foundations for economic development and growth in all communities. Building streets, bridges and utilities (i.e., water, sewer, electrical, gas, etc.) and making other improvements creates jobs. When completed, these projects help a community increase its wealth and its citizens’ quality of living.

Our city leaders have placed a high level of importance on maintaining and expanding its infrastructure. Doing so has resulted in the following outcomes:

1. Infrastructure creates and retains jobs. Straight Forward, an established call center business whose home office is in Sauk, Wisconsin, has opened a new location in Peoria’s Central Business District. Easy access to transportation was a driving factor in their decision to locate to Peoria—and bring 250 jobs with them. It is important that we continue to maintain and improve our infrastructure so we can attract new companies to the area and support existing companies. By creating and maintaining a sound foundation, the stage is set for businesses (and jobs) to thrive and grow. This in turn strengthens the local economy and creates an area full of business creativity, neighborhood activism and economic diversity, thus creating an attraction for visitors, seniors and young talent.

2. Infrastructure attracts and retains a skilled workforce. Today’s highly educated, skilled workers expect more from their jobs than just a paycheck and a secure future. That’s why cities compete fiercely to make their communities attractive places to live. Quality of life plays a huge role in one’s decision to seek a job in a particular city, relocate an existing business or start a new one. These factors include walkability, alternative transportation methods, bicycle paths, urban centers, a vibrant cultural scene, nightlife, access to higher education and more. Peoria’s downtown redevelopment took shape in the form of widened sidewalks with brick-lined pavers, decorative street lamps, and mid-block crossings to accommodate pedestrian traffic. Forward-thinking streetscape design makes it conducive for visitors to enjoy new public gathering and meeting spaces.

3. Infrastructure fosters sustainability. Not only do the recent infrastructure improvements promote sustainability by minimizing runoff, reusing water, ensuring groundwater quality and responding to climatic demands, it’s also capable of being maintained without excessive costs. It ensures water delivery to new businesses and the necessary fire suppression to comply with building code regulations, which can be an obstacle for investors looking to rehabilitate an existing space or construct a new one. We want to make the renovation process as successful as possible to foster our city’s unique identity, cultural interest, community involvement and a sustainable vision for tomorrow.

Clearly, infrastructure investment is driving economic development in downtown Peoria by fostering growth and activity, and encouraging developers to rehabilitate existing space or construct new space. In the last three years, eight commercial properties have been renovated or are in process, while eight multi-use properties are being developed. New development in the Warehouse District (where most of the improvements have been made) has proven to be a catalyst for other development as well, including the Central Business District and the RiverFront District.

The infrastructure we build today is the legacy we leave to future generations. It should provide for water, energy and transportation demands, while remaining flexible enough to adapt to future technological, environmental and regulatory changes as we meet the community’s current needs. The Downtown Development Corporation looks forward to supporting the city’s ongoing efforts to achieve its vision of a vibrant downtown… one that will increase opportunities for future growth and prosperity by yielding dividends for years to come. iBi

Michael J. Freilinger is president and CEO of the Downtown Development Corporation of Peoria.