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A Publication of WTVP

"By just about any measure, the past several months of economic news have been downright depressing. And yet, while the ills of the national economy have begun to seep into our region in the last month or so, we remain in much better shape than the headlines of doom and gloom. For those who remember the ‘80s-era bumper stickers that read "Will the last one to leave Peoria turn out the lights?", things don’t look nearly as bleak as they once did-and we must not allow the doom and gloom to become a self-fulfilling prophecy."
-Jan Wright, Publisher

INNOVATION IN THE HEARTLAND
Central Illinois has put together all of the ingredients to harness innovation on a large scale. At the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center, technology start-ups mingle with talent from a top-rated university, a Fortune 50 company, the Midwest hub for agricultural research, leading hospitals and a renowned medical school.

"When I dream about the future, one of the things we look at locally is how to diversify and grow our economy. If you don’t home-grow it, you likely won’t keep it. The guys we hire are from here, their families are here, and they will likely stay here afterwards. So the employment is largely central Illinois-based, and because of that, we don’t think this is something that could easily be moved. So, if you took a vote to see if anyone wanted to move to Silicon Valley, very few of us would say ‘yes.’…As we look at the future, we hope to have a series of viable spin-off companies that will take technology as their cornerstone and package it for partnerships that will provide better products for those partners, and provide the ability for us to hire locally."
-Dr. Andy Chiou, co-founder, Peoria Robotics

"Our strategic plan focuses our laboratory research efforts in the areas of neuroscience and cancer biology. By developing a focus, we can get more collaboration among researchers, share sophisticated medical equipment and further develop our research reputation, which in turn, increases grant funding…Our basic science research programs have brought $22 million to Peoria over the last six years and have resulted in almost 100 published articles in national journals."
-Dr. Sara Rusch, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria

  • TWO25 opened in the Mark Twain Hotel in December. The restaurant is the brainchild of three local entrepreneurs: Bud Grieves, former Peoria mayor; Ryan Dunkle, former executive chef at French Toast; and Bob Eid of One World.
  • Advanced Technology Services, Inc. was recognized by Inc. magazine as one of America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies for 2008.
  • Gene Olson is the new director at the General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport, replacing Ken Spirito, who departed last December.
  • The Red Cross Central Illinois Chapter was one of just two chapters nationwide to achieve the American Red Cross’ highest performance ranking for the fourth year in a row.
  • The Hotel Pere Marquette was recognized by the Heart of Illinois Hospitality Association with its 2009 Community Service Award for hosting an annual fundraising event for worthy causes.
  • The Creve Coeur Club of Peoria awarded John Bearce the Robert H. Michel Lifetime Achievement Award.

"The future energy requirements of our country will be met in part though the production of renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. Pennycress may change the way America produces renewable biodiesel fuel. Our region is uniquely positioned to both create innovations through the application of strategic partnerships and benefit from the economic activity that this shift to renewable energy will bring."
-Peter B. Johnsen,
chief technology officer, Biofuels Manufacturers of Illinois

BUILDING THE BLOCK
"The votes have been cast, and the people have spoken. We can now move forward and indeed ‘Build the Block.’ Peoria will have a world-class museum complex and be the home of Caterpillar’s Global Visitor Center. It is not an exaggeration to say that history will show this decision of the electorate to be the most critical in modern times impacting Peoria’s future. And they endorsed this project in a time of significant economic transition.

"It is incredible. There will be an investment of at least $136 million in one of the area’s prime pieces of real estate. The construction will create over 250 jobs, with a monthly labor payroll of $1.8 million. The museum and Caterpillar Visitor Center campus will transform a 6+ acre hole into an inviting urban landscape and attraction playing host to at least 1,000 visitors a day."
-Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis

Right Time for Peoria Regional Brand
"The Peoria region has changed dramatically over the last few years-and we are poised for additional transformative change in the near future. The time is now to come together and develop a coordinated branding campaign for the entire region. We need to reveal what it is that makes our region so attractive, and then communicate it to the rest of the world. The creation of a coordinated brand will benefit all communities in our region, not just Peoria and East Peoria."
-Ryan Spain, Heartland Partnership

TRANSPORTATION TRENDS
There’s a lot going on in central Illinois when it comes to transportation. A feasibility study is on the way regarding the potential return of Amtrak service to Peoria. The Peoria International Airport connected a record number of passengers to the world in 2008. CityLink bus ridership is up 25 to 30 percent over last year. And let’s not forget barge traffic on the Illinois River. Our central location, easily accessible via air, rail, barge or truck, is a major competitive advantage for the region.

"I really do think we need to think outside the box. People who travel to Europe or Japan come back talking about the great high-speed rail they rode on. We don’t have that in America. Amtrak has improved its service and has more ridership now than ever, but true high-speed rail doesn’t exist in America. People have experimented with livable communities in places like Portland, Oregon, but it really hasn’t taken hold, and until the federal government sets a standard for livable communities and puts resources into it, it won’t really happen. We have to be the leaders of these things at DOT."
-U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

Have the troubles of the Big Three automakers impacted Firefly?
"There have been cutbacks in a lot of areas of the car companies, but battery technology is not one of them. There’s a lot of investment being made in that area, so the interest among car companies and Firefly is very strong."
-Firefly Energy Senior Vice President Mil Ovan iBi

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