PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — More than 400 participants packed the Peoria Civic Center on Thursday for the City of Peoria’s two-day Strategic Planning Kickoff.

The kickoff event brought elected officials, business leaders and community members together to develop a five-year strategic plan with the theme “Creating a Road Map for our Future.”

“It’s very forward-looking, and that’s intentional,” said Peoria Mayor Dr. Rita Ali.

Ali said the strategic plan focuses on six key topics:

  • Growing the Workforce
  • Business Support, Attraction and Retention
  • Reimaging Downtown
  • Neighborhood Investment
  • Infrastructure Improvement
  • Fiscal Health and Financial Future.

After introductory speeches and informational presentations, participants broke out into discussion groups of 10 to 20 people, each with a dedicated facilitator.

By incorporating themes of public safety, arts and culture, and diversity and equity in each key topic, Ali said the ultimate goal is to identify critical issues and strategies to improve Peoria for residents.

“What we’re saying is that these things are important to all these topic areas. Put on your lens when you go in to talk about infrastructure. Think about arts and culture, think about crime reduction, think about equity. Put on that lens because it should be embedded in all those key topic areas,” she said.

Hundreds packed the Peoria Civic Center ballroom for the Strategic Planning Kickoff

Ali said everyone’s perspective is valuable when planning the city’s future.

“It’s so important that city council is not creating the plan in a vacuum, that we are creating a plan that’s been vetted, that the community is being involved in creating that plan for Peorians, for Peoria… The ownership is not just the city council’s ownership, that there is buy-in from the community and we all own this plan,” she said.

Ali said she was impressed with the turnout. At least 300 people attended the morning session from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and another 100 people attended the afternoon session from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

“My heart is full. It means that the people want to be a part of the process to help Peoria become greater, help Peoria to thrive. I’m very optimistic, I’m very excited, very encouraged by this level of energy and optimism,” she said.

The kickoff continues Friday with the same morning and afternoon sessions. The entire strategic planning process will take four to five months.