Brinker: Quite A Punch, But Peoria Not Down For The Count

By Nancy G. Brinker
February 14, 2017
Peoria Journal Star

On Washington Street in Downtown Peoria sits the Caterpillar Visitors Center & Museum. Opened in 2012, the 50,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility celebrates the company’s roots in Peoria going back 107 years and, more importantly, lays out a vision for its future. That future, up until recently, appeared more certain in the eyes of the surrounding community.

Caterpillar has always been regarded as more than a company in Illinois. This sturdy manufacturer of RD6 tractors and backhoe loaders, of engines and excavators, personified hope and the embodiment of the American dream for generations of Peorians. It was an industrious Midwest work ethic derived from the city in which I grew up that turned Caterpillar into the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment. While the company’s viability is stronger than ever, its forthcoming departure 170 miles up I-55 to Chicago is set to deal a major blow to the heart of the American rust belt.

For myself, the daughter of Marvin and Eleanor Goodman who grew up selling Girl Scout cookies along with my sister Suzy on Glen Avenue, Peoria will always be home. Our family’s story wasn’t unique, just quintessentially American like so many others. My great grandfather, Moses, immigrated to Illinois from Berlin in the 19th century. My grandmother founded the local chapter of the Red Cross in Peoria. My parents, who lived through both world wars, worked hard to help build affordable post-war apartment housing and shopping centers that catered to new business development.

In 1982, after making a deathbed promise to my sister Susan to cure breast cancer, I founded the Susan G Komen Foundation to eradicate breast cancer. Along with legions of volunteers spanning over 100 cities an 30 other countries, we created and sustained a foundation that has transformed the way in which the world treats and talks about breast cancer. This experience led me to a career in public service to our nation and to be honored as a Lincoln Laureate in Peoria in 2016.

The spirit of these endeavors was fueled by the strong sense of civic engagement found within our city. My father was fond of referring to Peoria as “paradise” because he understood that the riches we lacked in income were more than made up for in the town’s sense of community. A community held together by Caterpillar.

To read Nancy’s op-ed in its entirety, please visit the Peoria Journal Star’s website.