PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Moving Greater Peoria forward will be the focus for area leaders and community members on Thursday, as they gather at what’s called “The Big Table” in Peoria.

This year marks the first time The Big Table has been held at the Peoria Civic Center since 2019, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s an amazing convening of this wide, vast region. We’re talking rural, urban. We’re talking multiple counties, people from all different backgrounds,” said Joshua Gunn, President/CEO of the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce.

The mission is to create a dialogue around the key issues in the region.

The event will be held in four sessions with topics including workforce development, quality of life, entrepreneurship and innovation, and diversity and inclusion.

“Creating a region that is high quality, that’s going to be attractive to talent, and retain talent that we have,” Gunn said. “For this region to reach its fullest potential, we have to create a more equitable and inclusive region that celebrates diversity.”

The Big Table has also led to real change and solutions.

President of Discover Peoria, J.D. Dalfonso, recalled speaking with a resident of Peoria’s south side at the event about her neighborhood and advancing it.

“I was able to have a discussion and ended up hiring her, enacting many initiatives within our own organization to highlight areas of Peoria and the hospitality industry that’s been underrepresented in the past. It came with national recognition,” Dalfonso said.

Dalfonso added that those types of discussions are what make The Big Table important.

“Everybody has the opportunity to take it by themselves and improve the communities they live in and take part in every day, I think that’s one of the great things,” he said.

The Big Table is free and starts at 8:30 a.m. All community members are encouraged to attend.