Diversity is often mistaken for a purely social and moral issue, but this viewpoint neglects to account for a much larger truth. Diversity in the workforce must be recognized as a competitive edge and a business opportunity, especially in today’s globally influenced economy. The unique perspectives that result from encouraging diversity of thought and experience are vital to economic success, and the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center leads the charge for an economically diverse Peoria.
Caterpillar’s presence in the region leads many to believe that the Peoria Metro economy is primarily manufacturing-based. However, of the nearly 50,000 new jobs created in Peoria over the last 20+ years, the majority have been created in industries outside of the manufacturing sector, such as healthcare, transportation, technology and professional/technical services. In other words, economic diversity drives job growth in the Peoria Metro area. The Peoria NEXT Innovation Center’s focus on emerging technology ensures that this region will remain economically diverse through its support of industries such as healthcare, venture capital, energy and green technology, and multimedia technology.
The Innovation Center supports diversity within each of these industries as well. In the healthcare industry alone, the Center hosts five organizations, all specializing in different areas of medicine. Deepak Gaddipati currently heads the research team working on a biomedical simulator for internal hemorrhage and other medical conditions at Peoria Robotics. Mr. Gaddipati first came to Peoria from India in 2002 to get his master’s degree in electrical engineering at Bradley. After time in California and New Jersey, he returned to Peoria to fulfill his dream of participating in cutting-edge research. The Innovation Center’s climate of support for the healthcare industry is sure to benefit the region, as healthcare is projected to grow from 16 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product to 20 percent.
Another example of the diverse types of businesses fostered by the Innovation Center is Memwäs, a multimedia technology company aimed at reinventing the aging archiving industry. This company was the 2008 Bradley University Springboard Competition winner and spent last year in the Innovation Center. Bradley graduate Adesegun Sun-Basorun saw an opportunity when he noticed that traditions such as the wedding guestbook, yearbook and family photo albums are becoming increasingly obsolete in today’s tech-savvy, paperless society. Memwäs launch product, the Interactive Guestbook, is an easy-to-use kiosk that allows guests to record personal video messages. Once catalogued, these messages will be viewable via DVD, digital video frame, iPhone or iPod-ready media, as well as online through Memwäs’ EventSpace.
The Innovation Center’s focus on unique and cutting-edge technology provides Peoria with the diversity of thought and experience that is necessary for economic success. As Mr. Gaddipati puts it, “Peoria has become a very culturally diverse place; experts from various disciplines around the world are here…With the support and collaboration from the wonderful people of Peoria, the city will be a great place for everyone
to grow.” iBi