It may be hard to believe, but opportunity is available if you know where to look! In this extremely challenging economic climate, the spirit of entrepreneurism is alive and well in our region, especially in the technology arena. People are taking a leap and trying to start the businesses they have always dreamed of. This is evident throughout the Peoria NEXT organization.

The Peoria NEXT Innovation Center at 801 Main Street in Peoria has been filling up ahead of projections after opening just over a year ago. The facility has 13 tenant companies with nearly 60 employees to date—and there are more companies expressing interest in the Innovation Center every month.

Oftentimes, one of the biggest hurdles for a start-up company is finding financial backing. You might think investors would be hard to find during an economic downturn like this, but that’s not necessarily the case. Some investors are looking for new ways to invest their money because the market is so tough. Established companies are seeing a decline in their existing revenue, so they too may be looking for alternate sources of income through new innovation and technology.

In the past seven years, more than 90 companies have received assistance from the Bradley Technology Commercialization Center (BTCC, formerly HITEC) and Peoria NEXT. We have actively assisted in obtaining $73.8 million for them. There is a market for technology in this area.

The Peoria NEXT Innovation Center is a technology incubator, designed to help small start-up technology companies grow. The facility has a wide range of businesses being developed. You will find biotechnology, energy, renewable fuels, medical device, software, robotics and engineering companies. This shows how diverse the technology industry is in the Peoria area.

This region is known for manufacturing and agriculture. Both are still driving forces of our economy, but those industries are growing and evolving. Technology is now a major part of these industries, and our region is keeping up with those changes and, in many cases, embracing them. Between Caterpillar, the USDA Ag Lab and the local colleges, there are hundreds upon hundreds of research projects taking place right here at home. There is $1.5 billion in applied research happening here annually. Much of this research revolves around technology.

Last summer, Peoria NEXT held The Midwest Energy Solutions Conference and experts from around the country came to Peoria to discuss energy solutions from biofuels, coal, wind, nuclear and other new technologies. This is proof that there is much happening right here in our own backyard. We are living in a global economic climate where being green, efficient, sustainable and innovative is highly encouraged. All of that is alive and well in our region. iBi