Peoria, Illinois (WMBD) — Central Illinois leaders have cleared the table for community discussion — a big table.
Big Table: Greater Peoria is back at the Peoria Civic Center on Thursday. This event was free for the general public to attend.
Over 500 people signed up to participate in the eight-hour community-building event, sharing their vision and joining the conversation to make their communities thrive.
In addition to thought-provoking conversations with residents and community decision makers, the goal was also to create new relationships and understand the needs of people and communities.
Joshua Gunn, President and CEO of the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, said: “We celebrate all that makes our region great and create purposeful collaborations to solve some key challenges.”
Attendees can choose to join another 1.5 hour session. Points of discussion included diversity, equity and inclusion, along with innovation and entrepreneurship, quality of life and location, and finally workforce development.
Gunn said Peoria’s diversity and opportunities are two of the region’s biggest highlights.
“Peoria has a very rich cultural diversity,” Gunn said. “You get the food, the culture, the music, the dancing, the Midwestern values: family and familiarity.”
“The opportunity that exists here in Peoria is one of the things that makes this area so great,” Gunn said. “If you can solve some challenges around access and opportunity, you can be anything you want to be here. So the sky really is the limit of Peoria.”
He also said that making attractive investments (such as improving the downtown area) could help transform the community not only in terms of population decline, but “quality of life and location.”
“Some of our best and brightest have decided they don’t want to live in Peoria anymore,” Gunn said. We want to strengthen our business so that people stay here, make strategic investments here, work here, live here, play here and raise their families here.”
Central Illinois Friends Executive Director Deric Kimler led a diversity and inclusion panel. He said it’s important for communities to have events like the Big Table where they meet the people making decisions in their area.
“We can make as many assumptions as we like, especially those in positions of power who can make decisions about what all day, every day. they Think Peoria and Greater Peoria needs and wants,” Kimler said. “But without contact from the community, you will never succeed.”
Kimler said the information gathered from the panel made residents feel there was a misconception about fairness.
“There’s a lot of thinking in Peoria that no matter which box is ticked, it’s treated the same,” Kimler said. You cannot truly understand what a fair life is like until you acknowledge that.”
He also said he is proposing to invest in communities to address economic development issues.
“We have to start hiring local individuals who see and speak the language of the people who live here,” Kimler said. “We have to start offering opportunities to grow locally within the organization and start asking what individuals need.”
Leaders said those who couldn’t make it to Thursday’s event hoped more people would sign up to experience the Big Table next year.
https://www.centralillinoisproud.com/news/local-news/big-table-greater-peoria-makes-a-comeback-at-peorias-civic-center/ Big Table Greater Peoria Returns to Peoria’s Civic Center