Ten years ago, Peoria NEXT was a small, life-science research collaboration. Today, it is an emerging economic development force in the Peoria region. Peoria NEXT was developed in 2001, and in just 10 short years, the organization has grown into a regional success. It has received national attention for creating a culture of entrepreneurialism that, in turn, is promoting opportunity for the Peoria region as a whole. Last year, CNN Money and Fortune Small Business ranked Peoria the fifth best midsized city in which to launch a small business and the 15th best overall, regardless of size. This is proof that the climate here is ripe for success, and that should make the entire region proud.
Peoria NEXT focuses specifically on technology and innovation and cultivating small businesses in this arena. But this is not something that can be done alone—it takes a team effort. Here is one of the goals included in the original vision for Peoria NEXT in 2001:
As an organization, Peoria NEXT must promote collaboration and shared values. The spirit of collaboration is at the heart of Peoria NEXT—it is a prerequisite for sustaining future organizational growth.
I believe this goal has been achieved. Peoria NEXT focuses on nurturing and creating collaborations that will yield positive economic growth for the entire community. Peoria NEXT was built on and is currently sustained by partnerships with a passionate group of community leaders and volunteers. Our partners include Caterpillar, NCAUR, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, Bradley University, Illinois Central College, Methodist Medical Center, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, PNC Bank, Peoria Public Schools, The Heartland Partnership and BRDC. Each of these partner companies realizes the importance of technology and innovation for our region and shares a vision to make it a destination for entrepreneurs.
Another goal from the original vision of the company is:
The completion of the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center is of paramount importance and will create significant growth for Peoria NEXT. The Innovation Center will provide an opportunity for the commercialization of new ideas and discoveries that will grow into successful job-generating businesses.
This, too, is a goal to be marked as “achieved.” The Peoria NEXT Innovation Center is open and filled with technology and innovation-focused startup companies. Three companies have graduated from the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center in the past two years, and many more are continuing to move ahead.
I have been a part of Peoria NEXT since 2003 and president/COO since 2008, and it has been an exciting and exhilarating challenge. But having recently accepted a job as chief of staff with State Treasurer-elect Dan Rutherford, I have relocated to Springfield. While I may no longer be directly involved with Peoria NEXT, I am excited for what it will continue to do to move the Peoria area forward and make it an even better place to live and work.
It has been such a thrill for me to work with the tenant companies at the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center. To see these companies grow from two guys and a briefcase into something amazing…it’s such a great feeling of accomplishment to watch these entrepreneurs turn their ideas and dreams into reality. This region has such an asset with Peoria NEXT and its partner companies/organizations, and I can’t wait for the next 10 years to watch Peoria NEXT and this region grow even more.
We often say collaboration is one of the keys to success, and with the great collaborations we have in place, I have no doubt that Peoria NEXT will continue to succeed and make history. iBi