Peoria NEXT has been a successful partnership of local government, business and nonprofit groups with the goal of incubating, retaining and attracting high-technology industries to central Illinois. We have had a lot of success over the last six years. Companies like Firefly and InformMed have helped to make Peoria NEXT a household name. The organizations that make up Peoria NEXT have spent a significant amount of time and resources to make this endeavor a success, and I would like to recognize their contributions and widespread support for our efforts.
When we talk to entrepreneurs and investors from outside the region, they are often very surprised to learn that central Illinois produces over $1 billion in research and development each year. But with Biotechnology Research & Development, Bradley University, Caterpillar, the National Center for Agricultural Utilization and Research and the University of Illinois College of Medicine, we have a strong base of researchers and scientists who help facilitate the initial stages of commercialization.
In order to take those ideas to the next level, we need well-educated and driven entrepreneurs who have the will and knowledge to sell them. The process of growing our pool of entrepreneurs begins in the classroom, which is why Peoria Public School District 150 has been an excellent partner in the process. After their high school graduation, these eager students can hone their skills and learn new ones at Illinois Central College.
A sure sign that a high-technology company can relocate to an area and be successful is a community’s ability to meet the demands of other high-technology companies. They need only to look at our healthcare industry to know that our region has the ability to develop, train and maintain a high-technology workforce. Both Methodist Medical Center and OSF Saint Francis Medical Center have been excellent collaborators in this process and fine examples of how high technology and science can flourish in central Illinois.
Several additional companies have contributed valuable services. National City Bank has provided invaluable resources in the area of finance, while eServ has lent its experience to mentor up-and-coming entrepreneurs. As the regional resource for economic development, The Heartland Partnership has provided administrative and marketing resources to keep the effort moving, and we are certainly grateful for our partnership with Ameren, which keeps the lights on.
Peoria NEXT has numerous volunteers, many in the organizations mentioned above. There are two that have been dedicated to this organization both in their professional careers and in their own personal time. Glen Barton and Gerry Shaheen have spent their careers expanding the economy of central Illinois through private business, and they have continued that pursuit by expanding opportunities for technology commercialization with Peoria NEXT.
An effort the size and scope of Peoria NEXT takes so much hard work to grow. Without the efforts of these companies and all of our dedicated volunteers, we would not be able to talk about all of the successes we have had in the last few years. As we continue to grow Peoria NEXT, I’d like to thank all of you for your dedication to this exciting and energizing organization. IBI