A Publication of WTVP

Peoria’s Main Street, once known as Auto Row, may soon be viewed as Biotech Boulevard, thanks to the Peoria NEXT collaborative. An incubator project is planned for the Main Street corridor between University Street and Downtown. City officials hope the initiative sparks a rebirth of the corridor, where many of the buildings that once were automobile showrooms have sat empty in recent years.

An innovative battery materials technology developed by Caterpillar Inc. will provide the basis for a new Peoria-based company called Firefly Energy Inc. Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Glen Barton introduced the new company as one of the early successes of Peoria NEXT. Firefly will develop an innovative power cell for a variety of applications in the worldwide battery marketplace.

The Peoria City Council passed a "medical technology district," which essentially encompasses the USDA lab, Bradley University, the U of I College of Medicine and downtown hospitals. The efforts complement the Peoria NEXT bioresearch initiative.

The Peoria City Council passed a package of measures intended to lead to an "innovation center" for Peoria NEXT. The 50,000-square-foot, $12 million business incubator would be located along West Main Street as part of the city’s new medical-technology district.

Peoria City Manager Mike McKnight announced his retirement on January 15th after 30 years with the city, the last seven as city manager. The Peoria City Council selected Charles "Randy" Oliver as the new city manager.

The new Bergner’s store opening soon in northwest Peoria will be downstate Illinois’ largest department store, according to developer Diane Oberhelman. She said the Shoppes at Grand Prairie will open April 10th, though Bergner’s and other stores may actually open in late March. The project includes a restaurant new to Peoria-Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse.

A new 76,000-square-foot Central Illinois Comprehensive Cancer Center will be built on Route 91 near the Shoppes at Grand Prairie. Dr. Michael Veeder of Oncology Hematology Associates said the new Cancer Center will replace the firm’s current location in downtown Peoria.

inPlay at the Maxam, a new development on the riverfront featuring games, restaurants and more, opened on March 11th. CityLink cut the ribbon on its new downtown transit center on August 15th. A ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Wal-Mart Super Center on Allen Road was held on August 20th.

On April 4th, the City of Washington celebrated the kick-off campaign of the Washington Area Community Center, a state-of-the-art facility that will include: a new public library; gymnasiums; aquatic, wellness, therapeutic, senior and youth centers; banquet and meeting rooms; and a 1,200-seat performing arts auditorium.

Embassy Suites will build a new property in East Peoria. Construction of the 225-room luxury hotel and adjoining 50,000-square-foot regional conference center was announced at a press conference on May 27th. John Q. Hammons Hotels and Resorts was identified as the hotel’s developer.

"Riverside Park [in East Peoria] will be the connection between the Michel Bridge area and the area north of the Murray Baker Bridge…Located between Super Wal-Mart and the Illinois River, the park will include a continuation of the community’s bikeway system, a pedestrian promenade along the seawall, and walkways and extensive plantings throughout the park. The plan will renovate existing CILCO platforms so they’re accessible to park visitors and provide assembly areas for concerts and events, as well as panoramic viewing stations for Peoria’s impressive skyline."
-Lance S. Escue, Clark Engineers

"The Heart of Peoria Plan is the result of an intensive, 10-day planning charrette, led by Andres Duany of DPZ and involving more than 1,000 Peorians. The ambitious strategies for public and private development and revitalization of the heart of our city are being reviewed for financial feasibility and fiscal impact. They include increased living and more pedestrian-friendly downtown and major development projects such as Lakeview Regional Museum and an expanded Peoria Civic Center."
-David P. Ransburg,
Mayor of Peoria

"Recently, the Central Illinois Workforce Development Board unveiled its Talent Force 21 initiative. This represents the next step in our region’s efforts to actively shape our future and prepare to compete and prosper in the 21st century knowledge economy. Over the last few years, it’s become apparent the central Illinois economy has undergone real changes. We’ve seen hundreds of manufacturing and other workers laid off, and dozens of businesses close, downsize or relocate. Some of this is obviously due to a cyclical downturn in the economy that’s affected the entire country. However, much of it may represent a structural shift in the nature of the economy."
-Bashir Ali
, Central Illinois Workforce Development

Eight schools in the Peoria Public School District, including Manual High School, must notify parents that children may move to a better performing school. The federal No Child Left Behind law requires schools to allow the transfer so kids have the chance to learn in a better academic environment.

According to consulting firm Hewitt Associates, U.S. companies are expected to be hit again with double-digit healthcare cost hikes in 2003, marking the highest increase since the early 1990s. Hewitt is projecting a 15.4 percent average increase, after last year’s rate hike of 13.7 percent. As a result, many companies are increasing employees’ share of healthcare premiums.

As they approach retirement age, it’s becoming clear the baby boomer generation has no intention of slowing down. In fact, just the opposite may be happening. With uncertainty in the stock market and waning confidence in corporate America, Americans approaching their 50s and 60s are jumping on the entrepreneurial bandwagon. The Wall Street Journal reported boomers between the ages of 45 and 64 are responsible for 36 percent of the entrepreneurial activity in the U.S.

"Quality of life is in the stars for the
Peoria-Pekin MSA, according to Expansion Management magazine.
Classified only as a four-star community for the past several years,
2003 brings the desirable Five Star status to the Peoria-Pekin area.
This ranking places the Peoria region among the top 15 percent of all
evaluated MSAs in the nation."
-Michael Quine, EDC of Central Illinois

Illinois-American Water Company water treatment facilities and offices
have been on a heightened security status since 9-11 and will remain so
indefinitely. We continue to assure all of our customers we’re
diligently guarding and monitoring our water supplies, systems, and
facilities-24 hours a day, every day."
-Kevin Hillen, Illinois-American Water Company

"Tomorrow’s breakthroughs are being researched in Peoria today.
Designed to reveal the wealth of science and technology research in the
Peoria area, the Scientific Colloquium Series is custom-built for the
general public. Each installment will feature a presentation from a
leading scientist or researcher…In September, participants will hear
about dynamic stem cell research taking place at the Children’s
Hospital of Illinois. October brings a speaker from Caterpillar who
will address pioneering nanotechnology research and the implications
future discoveries will have on our daily lives. November features a
scientist from the USDA NCAUR addressing new revelations in
biotechnology. The last installment takes place in December and
explores the field of robotics."
-Dr. Donald Rager, Peoria NEXT   iBi