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New Peoria initiative supports minority and women-owned businesses

 City of Peoria's Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Melodi Green announces the first initiative of the Peoria Equity Accountability Program at city hall on Monday.
Collin Schopp
City of Peoria's Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Melodi Green announces the first initiative of the Peoria Equity Accountability Program at city hall on Monday.

The new Peoria Equity Accountability Program, or PeAP, is starting with underutilized businesses in the area.

At a news press conference on Monday, the city's Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Melodi Green announced the first PeAP project, a certification and digital directory for woman and minority-owned businesses.

“The PeAP database will create a virtual real-time business listing of each and every minority or women-owned business that certifies with the city at no cost to the applicants,” she said. “The goal is to hold ourselves accountable to using our best efforts to increase minority and women participation and utilization in every business field.”

The list will include businesses like AFE Construction, a general contracting company that’s been in the Peoria area for more than 20 years.

“Peoria has had an issue for a very long time with identifying minority and women-owned businesses in the area,” said AFE managing partner Monica Arbuckle. “This particular initiative will help kind of bring to the forefront the ones that we do have in the area.”

Denise Moore, CEO and founder of the Minority Business Development Center, said there are more than 125 vendors and contractors waiting to be placed on the list.

“It has been a frustrating process to them because they have the capability and the skills, yet they continually get passed over because nobody knows that they’re there,” said Moore. “This process will now help remove that concept that minority contractors and vendors do not exist.”

Moore also said businesses from surrounding areas like Bloomington-Normal or Galesburg also can get certified for the list. While many of the initial group are contractors, it's open to businesses of any kind.

To become certified, business owners can upload a driver’s license or state I.D. card, documents showing the percentage owned in the business, and any previous certifications the business might have to the city’s website on the Equal Opportunity page.

The city will host a PeAP community launch event from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 10 at the Peoria Public Library. Business owners are invited to get help with the certification process from city staff and volunteers.

PeAP and the digital directory passed unanimously at a city council meeting on July. 26. While the directory is PeAP’s first project, Green said it’s far from the last.

“The hope is that we can eventually build the program out in different areas,” said Green. “I know that we’ve been offered help from, for example, the Urban League to host ‘How To Do Business With The City’ initiatives and things like that. I definitely think those are the important things that we have to continue to do on an ongoing basis. It’s not just a one and done.”

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Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.