“Ramping up” can barely describe the acceleration going on in our offices at the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council. Our small team of 3.5 is going 200 miles per hour to transition existing committees into implementation mode and drive measurable results for our region.
In April, we shared our first quarterly update. Three months isn’t much time to reflect results, but there are five projects we have helped bring to fruition this quarter, and hopefully many more to come.
Startup Peoria continues to bring our entrepreneurial ecosystem together and drive results through its events and programs. Its newest financial tool, KeyStart, was recently announced and is another great example of how this group is leveraging resources to fill the gaps needed to spur local innovation and business creation. Funded by Attollo and OneFire, KeyStart is a pitch competition started in May that will award $5,000 in the form of convertible debt to a new business idea. These types of microgrant programs are incredibly important in helping entrepreneurs access capital to turn ideas into real companies.
We are also excited to announce the formation of our new Greater Peoria Manufacturing Network in collaboration with IMEC. The network is a privately-driven group of local heavy metal manufacturers interested in working together on individual and collective bidding and other projects that could increase sales and decrease costs through collective efficiency. Ten manufacturers in Greater Peoria attended the network’s first meeting, and they were enthusiastic about the possibilities of working together. This initiative has the potential to provide a level of support for our earthmoving supply chain they simply haven’t had in the past. The first action of this coalition was a trip to the Rock Island Arsenal in April to promote their collective expertise and identify new sales opportunities—a strategy that could drive significant growth and diversity for this critical sector.
In May, our business attraction efforts took us overseas where Kim Uhlig, our director of business attraction, joined Select USA in China to promote Greater Peoria. Foreign direct investment is one of the fastest-growing opportunities for new business development in any region, and this trip was an ideal opportunity to meet with pre-screened business leaders interested in investing in the United States.
Our Workforce Solutions teams continue to plan expos, internships and programs designed to educate students about the exciting career opportunities in manufacturing and healthcare. The recent announcement from local CICESS and Illinois Central College on their successful development of the first Secure Software Apprenticeship Program in the nation underscores the value of the work being done by so many volunteers in this critical arena.
And, of course, none of these exciting steps could have occurred without the support of our local economic developers, volunteers and Greater Peoria EDC investors. With their assistance, we are well on our way to implementing a successful economic development strategy for our region. iBi
Jennifer Daly is CEO of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council.