A Publication of WTVP

The tragic events in New York City and Washington, D.C. and an undeclared declaration of war against the United States and its people was intended to hurt our national economy. It will not succeed. One of the reasons it will not succeed is that the U. S. economy is not one city or complex, but thousands of cities and millions of people with strong businesses and economic bases. As Senator Dick Durbin said at his press conference in Peoria, "The attack was intended to bring America to its knees, but it brought us to our feet." America’s economy is strong and resilient.

Important to the role of Peoria’s strength and an integral component of our economy is the region’s bioscience sector. Proteomics. Bioinformatics. Agri-Informatics. Words that today probably don’t register with the average reader of InterBusiness Issues, but might very well someday become as much a part of the local lexicon as earth moving equipment, mining, steel, and that old familiar phrase—"Playing in Peoria." They’re among the terms describing the highly specialized, and lucrative research taking place at the country’s premier hospitals and biotech research centers. Part of the life sciences field that is reported by the National Science Foundation to be the fastest growing economic segments in the nation’s economy.

Last month, the Regional Bioscience Strategy was unveiled. The outgrowth of a study by nationally-respected Battelle Memorial Institute, the collaboration is an effort to marshal the "twin pillars" of medical research and agriculture research, and position the region as a nationally recognized Life Sciences Center. It’s making partners of some traditional competitors such as OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, Methodist Medical Center and Proctor Hospital. It’s joining the resources of the best-kept secret in town—the USDA Ag Lab (NCAUR)—with Bradley University and the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, along with Illinois Central College. Best of all, it’s recognizing the potential we have to take advantage of the enormous resources that exist here, to build on our existing assets and to collaborate for a common purpose.

According to Battelle, the bioscience sector, both in terms of research and economic activity, is generally acknowledged to be entering a new era of innovation with the successful completion of the Human Genome project. It has created new research opportunities and potential applications to tap the enormous potential of genetic engineering, and opened up new avenues to link these applications with other fields and disciplines. What does this mean for Peoria? Opportunity to build a new economic engine that will create the kind of wealth and investment here that would be a step toward economic diversification. And we’re not alone.

Peoria, like many similar communities, is going through a period of major changes in its industrial bases, and is seeking to bolster its economy by building upon a concentration, or "cluster", of companies and other ventures connected to a single industry.

The Battelle study reads like a glowing report card for a community desperately looking for its niche in the world. It talks about our significant strengths, including premier general and specialty hospitals, an agriculture research component (the Ag Research Center) that would place among the top 40 universities in the nation in agricultural sciences R&D, world class scientists and facilities, and top notch clinical care, with specialties from oncology to organ transplantation. The hottest cluster industry today is life sciences, such as medical and agricultural biotechnology, medical devices and pharmaceuticals. The attraction? High-paying jobs and tremendous growth potential.

The report’s summary offers a challenge:

"The region is positioned to determine its destiny. Does it want to diversify its economy and take advantage of the bio and digital revolutions to capture these developments in a strong research and economic base within the region? Or does it simply want to continue what it has done in the past. Other regions and communities have recognized that to keep and attract talent, they must offer well-paying jobs that involve the development and use of technologies, require advanced education and training, and are built on knowledge and innovation. Talent, technology, and capital are the three key ingredients [to succeeding] in the New Economy." It appears that a forward thinking group of local leaders is ready to meet the challenge. The vision brings us to our feet. Peoria is one of the strong cities in our country that makes us proud to be American. IBI