What is in store for Peoria in 2020?
Officials say the city will keep moving in a positive direction with much to look forward to in the coming year.
It is a move not just toward future economic development, Deputy City Manager Katie Gregory said, but economic prosperity. She said this encompasses a wide scope of components, including economic development, future real estate development, branding of the city, and small business development, among other things.
“Economic development is so many different things, it’s not just bringing people to Peoria. It’s fostering what exists, it’s reaching out, it’s creating innovation and entrepreneurship,” she said.
“When we talk about economic development, we talk about economic prosperity, which is probably a better way to put it because it’s all encompassing. The whole concept of the livability goals and initiatives all get wrapped up into creating economic prosperity. We talk about education systems, transportation systems, smart growth systems. All the various systems, how do all those play to create for the ability of us to be a prosperous city?”
For years, the city has experienced a boom in single-family housing. It has slowed a bit but there is still a lot of activity — builders in northern Peoria averaged 93 net sales a month in 2019 and single-family housing permits increased 16% from 2018 to 2019.
But Ms. Gregory said the city is seeing a shift from single-family residential to multi-family residential with permits jumping from 183 to 627 from 2018 to 2019.
Much of the activity is taking place south of Bell Road, particularly in the area of 83rd and Olive avenues.
Ms. Gregory said the move toward multi-family is a Valley-wide trend. There has been more of a desire for the lock-and-leave concept, she said.
“We had a long lull in multi-family. Right before the downturn we had a big spike then everything dropped off, but multi-family was zero, zero, zero for many years. Now we are starting to see an uptrend again.”
Ms. Gregory said Peoria does not want to become something it is not, so it is important to know what people think of when they think of the city. Peoria staff launched its branding campaign “Peoria is the Place” one year ago and the city will continue to build on that concept, Ms. Gregrory said.
“And how do we build on that? What do they think of? Do they think of Lake Pleasant and outdoor recreation? Do they think of the beautiful vistas? Do they think tourism because of the sports complex? Or do they think fine dining? You know, it’s all these kinds of things that we are trying to figure out,” she said.
Part of the initial branding included the creation of a city mascot -- Prickly Pete -- intended to be a fun, interactive character to help demonstrate why Peoria “is the place” as well as add a humorous component to the city’s online content.
Kristina Perez, marketing and communications manager, said some new Prickly Pete friends and family are expected to be introduced in 2020, providing Instagrammable moments for tourists and Valley baseball fans during spring training and into the year.
Other branding components in the coming year will include: Second Saturdays, a restructuring of the city and economic development websites, a new, and a modern look to Peoria Channel 11 programming.
Additionally, Ms. Perez said the city has been experimenting with large digital kiosks at limited events and locations. In 2020, they will be used to engage residents and tourists by asking for feedback, showing off content, and more. These kiosks will show up at more events, city facilities and community gathering places, she said.
“Let’s just say there’s a lot more in the works for 2020 than I can say at the moment,” Ms. Perez said. “We have some new ideas that are directly related to both the new brand and placemaking initiative but we’re waiting for approvals before announcing those.”
About 85% of the businesses in Peoria are small businesses, according to city officials. The Small Business Development Center opened last year in Peoria, one of many locations throughout the state, with the goals to maintain and strengthen the local economy by aiding, counseling, assisting and protecting the interests of small businesses. The center provides free services as a one-stop shop for just about anything a business needs regardless of its stage of development.
Additionally, the city partnered with ASU to provide the tools, innovations and support to leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators to build a thriving, self-sustaining entrepreneurial ecosystem in the West Valley.
Ms. Gregory said the city has invested a lot of effort into small business development.
“We want to continue that. Small businesses need to know that they are important, that the city values the contributions they are making and that we should help in whatever way we can,” Ms. Gregory said.
“Businesses need to interact with (the city) and that can be a maze for a lot of small business owners. They are just trying to manage their day-to-day operations. So we want to make it easier for small businesses to navigate the city and the regulations and then provide support for that.”
Scot Andrews, president and CEO of the Peoria Chamber of Commerce, said small business is at the heart of the Peoria lifestyle, the chamber and the future.
"Our businesses are unique vibrant and many looking to expand and grow, and our city and the Peoria chamber are laser focused on improving tools, content and knowledge to help our local businesses flourish."
News Editor Philip Haldiman can be reached at 623-876-3697, email@example.com, or on Twitter @philiphaldiman.