The Heartland Partnership was developed in the 1990’s but some of the family of companies have been around for decades. The Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce is the oldest entity of The Heartland Partnership. It was established in 1911 as the Association of Commerce and took on the modern name of Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce in the 1950’s. It stood alone until the early 1980’s. In 1981, the Economic Development Council for Central Illinois was formed. The EDC and the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce have always co-existed by sharing a location and front desk services; but they have had separate boards and CEO’s from the very beginning.
The Peoria economy took a major hit in the 80’s when Hiram Walker closed at the end of 1981 taking with it close to a thousand jobs. The Pabst brewery also closed, Caterpillar laid off over three thousand workers in Peoria and was expanding outside of Illinois. The Rock Island Railroad went bankrupt and Keystone was reporting massive losses. Add this to all-time low housing starts, and city leaders determined it was time for the creation of an economic development strategy. It was hoped that an economic development council would be able to research and help understand the local economy in order to attract and retain businesses.
In the early 1990’s, some of the large employers of the region started looking for a better business model by asking if there was another, more beneficial way for these organizations to operate. These volunteers found a model that created a holding company to consolidate the back office functions, create one CEO position and share other resources. This proved to be more efficient for operations and a means of controlling operational cost increases. The reorganization allowed for consolidation of services but the entities still functioned separately with separate boards. This was the formation of The Heartland Partnership.
The Heartland Foundation was created in 1990 as a way to bring influential regional leaders together for a common goal. Unfortunately, this organization went dormant until 2002 when it was revitalized as the CEO Roundtable and in 2013 it became the CEO COUNCIL. The regional leaders involved, are charged with taking on large community projects that will benefit this community. Two major accomplishments in recent years are construction of the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center and successful passage of the Build the Block museum referendum. Through the CEO COUNCIL, the Heartland Foundation actively engages in critical community issues.
In 2001 Peoria NEXT was created to capture research and intellectual property created by our region for the purpose of creating jobs and growing our economy. Through collaboration and creativity, Peoria NEXT facilitates discovery, innovation and commercialization of new technologies aiming to create a regional economy that is more diversified and a desired location for new technology-based businesses by 2015.
The Heart of Illinois Regional Port District (TransPORT) is a unit of local government created by an act of the Illinois Legislature, and signed into Illinois law in July, 2003. This created a six-county Port District in Central Illinois. In 2005, the Port District took on the TransPORT brand. TransPORT was conceived as a specialized economic development unit for transportation and logistics. In 2012 TransPORT moved out from under the shared services of the partnership and now operates as a stand alone entity. Visit www.portdistrict.com.
In 2005, the Heartland Capital Network was born. This organization met the need for managed public finance and small business access to capital that was not otherwise available through a traditional banking institution.
The decision by the community in 2012 to pursue a new direction in economic development created a need for the organaztion to restructure. That restructuring process is currently underway (January 2013).