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Making Change Work For Us

From the innovation space to the retail sector, we seek to make change work to our advantage.

by Peoria Magazine |

We live in a time of rapid change and expanding options in the ways we communicate, seek information, pursue careers and education, engage in social settings, and access healthcare. Among the most dramatic changes are the options available to shop for the goods and services so essential for daily life. All of us are consumers, and the ways we choose to shop have drastically altered both the physical and economic landscape.

The Innovation Space
My State of the City address this year was all about how our community—especially our business and entrepreneurial sectors—is equipping us to take advantage of these changes in consumer choice and behavior. The many businesses and initiatives now underway which comprise the so-called “innovation space” are key to making sure that change, in fact, works for us.

Innovative learning technologies are being developed by Enduvo; effective materials sustainability is being pursued by Natural Fiber Welding; and nanotech-centered “energy harvesting” is being commercialized by NTS Innovation. Exciting enterprises such as Bump Boxes, Big Picture Initiative, Widecast, River City Labs and Better Earth Logistics are helping to move Peoria forward. The innovation space is also represented by the large physical presence of the Peoria Innovation Hub being created near OSF HealthCare’s new world headquarters, and in the work of the Peoria Innovation Alliance, which set the ball in motion just over a year ago.

The City of Peoria’s role in the innovation space is a multifaceted one. The City Council, for example, unanimously approved the designation of an “Innovation District” in downtown Peoria last year. In partnership with the Peoria Innovation Alliance, a nine-block area has been targeted for innovative economic growth. Among other features, it will be home to a smart city pilot project that will include autonomous vehicle test routes, smart transit solutions, public wi-fi, pedestrian sensors, open data and other initiatives aimed at bringing concentrated economic activity to the downtown. 

The Innovation District lies adjacent to the Peoria Warehouse District, where many exciting developments are taking place. By nurturing a climate friendly to and supportive of business, the City remains focused on providing first-class public services. Our public safety, infrastructure management, and community development services are essential parts of the equation encouraging people to share in the robust growth underway in both the Innovation and Warehouse Districts. 

The Changing Retail Landscape
This brings me back to the retail sector and how we can make the dramatic changes in shopping behavior work to our advantage. Approximately seven out of 10 Americans have shopped online, 25 percent shop online at least once a month, and both figures will continue to grow. By 2023, the U.S. is expected to have 300 million online shoppers—91 percent of the entire population.

Of course, online shopping has downsides for traditional retailers, as well as sales-related tax revenue, the physical store landscape and related employment. But the consumer is in the driver’s seat, as speed, convenience, inventory and cost are paramount considerations. I am also mindful that many local companies—Bump Boxes, for example—are successful ecommerce enterprises, creating new employment and retail options right here in Peoria. We commend their success and encourage even greater growth. 

The Peoria area boasts a wide range of retail and consumer-oriented services, and by many measures, shopping local holds significant advantages. I urge you to make the conscious decision to spend your money locally first. I am also convinced that the innovative initiatives we have underway—along with exciting expansions in healthcare and the Peoria-based firms involved in ecommerce—are indeed making change work for us. Thank you for doing your part. PM

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