Peoria’s global footprint is indisputable—understanding what it means is critical.

The Peoria metropolitan area is the 25th largest export market in the United States, with merchandise shipments totaling $12.2 billion in 2013, a figure that has grown dramatically in the past decade. According to the International Trade Administration (ITA), the Peoria metropolitan area accounts for 16 percent of Illinois’ merchandise exports. Not only is Peoria an All-American City, it’s a global community as well.

A Top Exporter
Central Illinois is very much integrated with the global economy, and the concept of globalization is felt locally in many ways. Peoria is a designated foreign trade zone, which allows local companies to use special procedures to facilitate and expedite international trade, assist state and local economic development efforts, and help create employment opportunities. This designation recognizes that international trade is a major element of the local and state economies.

Exports of machinery, chemicals, transportation equipment and agricultural products from Peoria have benefited from existing trade agreements. Nearly 12 percent of Peoria’s merchandise exports go to NAFTA countries, according to the ITA. However, free trade agreements currently being negotiated with the European Union and with several Asian countries offer expanded potential for trade that would spread opportunity well beyond our top-five export markets of Canada, Chile, Brazil, Belgium and Australia, especially for small and medium-sized companies.

International Business
While our all-American, heart-of-the-Heartland credentials are well known, the international scope of Peoria’s business scene still surprises some people. Peoria companies, small and large, source materials, goods and expertise from around the world, ensuring that they remain competitive on the global stage. The region is also home to a number of foreign-owned companies that have brought investment and employment opportunities to the area, such as India’s Hinduja Global Solutions and the Chinese-German joint venture, Yinlun PURItech Emission Technologies.

In addition, there are a growing number of companies that send U.S. employees to their facilities around the world, such as Maui Jim and Precision Planting. Not only has this cross-pollination resulted in spreading Peoria’s reputation for innovation and a world-class workforce, it has also contributed to the area’s rich ethnic diversity. A plethora of ethnic restaurants and series of festivals throughout the year are testaments to the cultural richness of Peoria’s global community.

A Diverse Citizenry
Moreover, immigrants and the children of immigrants have taken their places in the economy and the electorate as active citizens in central Illinois. The impact Lebanese-Americans in the Peoria area have had in business and on politics—including a recent U.S. Secretary of Transportation—is just one example. In terms of the electorate, the impact of foreign-born citizens is substantial. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 14 percent of the total population of Illinois in the last census reported being foreign-born; 46.5 percent of them are naturalized U.S. citizens. In addition, 10 percent of all registered voters in Illinois are considered “New Americans”—naturalized or U.S.-born children of immigrants who were raised during the current era of immigration, which began in 1965.

New Americans contribute substantially to the economy as well. According to the Selig Center for Economic Growth, the purchasing power of Illinois’ Latinos rose more than 422 percent between 1990 and 2012 to $46.1 billion, while the purchasing power of the state’s Asian-Americans rose 463 percent to $28.7 billion.

Learning is Global
International students offer another important aspect of the global community. Bradley University, for example, announced a substantial increase in graduate school applications from foreign applicants, even though it experienced a decline in undergraduate admissions. Foreign students can often earn a world-class education to which they might not have access in their home countries. Moreover, U.S. businesses benefit from students who have learned about this country’s business culture but can return to their home countries to work for a U.S. company’s subsidiary, having the language and skills of a native.

From foreign exports and international trade to foreign-born citizens and international students, Peoria’s global community is a tremendous asset to the city’s business and cultural environments. Globalization’s effects abound in Peoria, where the future will continue to be shaped by our international players and processes. iBi