Mission Not Yet Accomplished

Artist’s rendering of the new Caterpillar HQ planned for Downtown Peoria.

Artist’s rendering of the new Caterpillar HQ planned for Downtown Peoria.

Social media has been buzzing since Friday about Caterpillar’s announcement to keep and expand their World Headquarters here in Peoria. I too, am pretty excited about what this spark means for our community, but I can’t help but referring back to a particular statement from Mayor Ardis that has stuck with me as I wade through all of the posts, videos and interviews filling my feeds.

Let’s focus on the second part of this statement for a minute (well maybe a couple minutes): “Like to urge biz comm not to be complacent.” 

To me, these words comes at such an appropriate time as many posts here on The Whiskey City have been focused on #hygge throughout the month of February. While the Danes tell us the true definition of Hygge is hard to nail down, it’s generally thought to reflect feelings of relaxation, coziness, warmth, and camaraderie.

So why is this statement so important you ask in light of today’s announcement? Well, to me as an entrepreneur and business owner, the #hygge mindset, while important and appropriate in certain seasons, can sometimes stick around a bit too long and turn from relaxation and coziness to complacency and status quo.

We can no longer afford to maintain the status quo in our region if we want to see truly meaningful change happen.

With that being said and in light of today’s news, how do we avoid becoming complacent and truly foster meaningful change?

Here are my thoughts:

DO THINGS! - One of my favorite quotes that I continually share whenever I have a chance is from Herb Kelleher, Co-founder of Southwest Airlines:


“We have a strategic plan. It’s called doing things."

For way too long, our region has fallen into what I like to call “Planning Paralysis.” We plan and we plan, then we plan some more - but we have a hard time getting to execution and implementation. That is starting to change - and change very quickly. The real, tangible efforts are too many to list here, but there is no denying that people are doing things - great and positive things that are getting attention, building momentum and becoming noticeable in our everyday lives. If you aren’t involved in any of these positive groups, projects or activities, what are you waiting for?

TELL (Y)OUR STORIES - As we do all of these great and positive things, we’ve got to do a better job telling our stories - and shouting it from the rooftops for not only our region to hear, but for the Midwest and the entire US to know that we’re serious about the change happening in Greater Peoria. It’s certainly no small task to accomplish and it won’t happen overnight, but there are ways you can help:

- Encourage our local media outlets to focus more on the good and give them great stories to tell

- Make connections to friends, family and resources outside of our area and tell them about all the great things happening

- Write a post or two for this site, or any other blog that talks about any of the positive stories or people you’ve encountered or experienced

- Share the heck out of the good news on social media!

SUPPORT ENTREPRENEURS AND STARTUPS - There is no denying that business has fundamentally changed and entrepreneurs and startups are the future of our economy. See for yourself: http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2014/10/29/the-surprising-truth-about-where-new-jobs-come-from/

While Caterpillar’s announcement will undoubtedly bring a significant number of jobs to our region over the next 10+ years, we must not lose sight of the focus that must be given to support our entrepreneurs and startups. Many of these startups will end up supporting Caterpillar directly or indirectly by servicing their employees, suppliers and visitors. But the opportunity for birthing new ideas and businesses within our region should not rely on one company alone.

From food trucks and dog running services to tech companies and medical startups supporting the great work being done at JumpSim, the support and ecosystem for new startups to not only get off the ground, but to succeed must be strengthened and supported for the long-term. Startup Peoria has worked hard to lay this ground work over the past couple of years, but now we need buy-in and a mindset shift to occur across the business landscape in our region.

To quote my good friend Jess Knox from Portland, Maine we must deliberately “Engineer collisions between people, ideas and resources” to help build an effective and impactful entrepreneurial ecosystem.

GIVE BACK & LOVE THY NEIGHBOR - So what really makes this all come together and truly happen? It’s PEOPLE. All kinds of people from all walks of life and from all kinds of situations and circumstances.

I can’t even begin to put this thought into words as well as some others have here or here, but we’ve got to realize that all of us are members of this community and we all play our part in turning it around for the better. Whether that means you are in need of some help or able to offer some help, there are numerous ways to get involved and make a meaningful impact.

If you aren’t familiar with all of the great ways to get plugged in, here are just a few for consideration:

Dream Center Peoria

Peoria Humane Society

United Way

Peoria Rescue Ministries

Impact Peoria

IN CONCLUSION - We’ve reached the tipping point of what is slated to become the next chapter in Greater Peoria’s history. The stars are aligned, we’re physically planted at the geographical center of the universe and the pendulum has swung to one of positive momentum.

Won’t you join me in being part of the change and not settling for the status quo?