(Journal Star (Peoria, IL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 30--PEORIA -- As anticipated, the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission followed through Thursday on approving a new economic development tool for the region.
The panel authorized costs of about $30,000 a year for three years to create and operate a "data center for excellence" in the Tri-County Area, awarding the contract to Purdue University's Center for Regional Development.
The center will be used to provide access to more detailed information that can be used to assess the viability of economic development proposals across the region.
Commissioner Russ Crawford said the data center was one of the myriad items contemplated for the area in a proposed model to rebuild economic development presented several years ago by consultant Frank Knott, calling the decision Thursday "one of the first (gold) nuggets that comes out of that pipeline."
Before voting, commission member Andrew Rand suggested that the panel also should agree to assign day-to-day responsibility for the new data center to the Economic Development Council for Central Illinois. Rand has for months championed the idea of Tri-County shedding the responsibility for economic development work to the entities like EDC and Focus Forward Central Illinois that are designed for the task so that the commission can return to its core mission.
"I think we should keep our toes forward as a regional planning commission," he said in arguing to hand the work over to the EDC.
Other commissioners expressed concerns about needing more information -- some questions were resolved during the meeting itself -- while others wanted to ensure the same government entities would have access to it if it weren't housed under Tri-County's direct control.
Rand's proposal was voted down with the understanding that staff would try to answer outstanding questions so the topic could be revisited Sept. 25.
The quest for creating the center saw a brief delay when staff discovered that Purdue could provide a cheaper setup than some other vendors, and the bidding process was reopened in the hopes of saving money. Funds for it come through cash the region got from the federal government as part of relief from 2008's Hurricane Ike. Though the hurricane itself didn't hit the region, wind and rain from the storm did and that rendered the area eligible for some funds. About $91,000 was allocated for the data center.
The meeting was the first for the full commission at its new office space in the Twin Towers office building across from Peoria's City Hall.
Chris Kaergard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 686-3135. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.
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