A Publication of WTVP

On the one-year anniversary of the opening of the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center, we are celebrating its business successes and environmental sustainability.

Reflecting on the first year, it is clear that we have achieved and exceeded the expectations of the Peoria NEXT board and the community. The occupancy rate stands at 67 percent, while the target rate was 50 percent. Not only does the facility house firms in fields as diverse as software, healthcare, fluid mechanics and biotechnology, but it has become a community center and rallying space for meetings and press events. From a community and business perspective, the value of the Innovation Center is quite clear.

With sustainability an increasingly critical topic, it is important to note that Peoria NEXT is doing its part to contribute to environmental health. First, the building itself boasts several environmentally friendly features, and it was designed and constructed to meet LEED silver requirements. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a third-party certification program that is the standard in green building design, and the Innovation Center was built with its requirements in mind. An energy recapture system is a prominent feature of the building, helping to reduce the consumption of energy resources by our tenant firms. Many of the activities in the Innovation Center are energy-intensive, and a recapture system that utilizes exhaust, heat and air conditioning for reuse saves on carbon emissions and utility bills. The air recycling system is especially helpful to our wet labs, which use a great deal of power and require intense air circulation.

Additionally, the building was constructed to capture and distribute light efficiently. The glass treatment on the windows further enhances the efficient use of light, providing excellent interior visibility while retaining privacy and maintaining comfortable temperatures. Recycled materials were used in construction, and even the dirt from the excavation was taken away by a third party for additional uses. The environmentally sustainable features of the building include personal details; for instance, we provide bike racks, showers and locker rooms so that employees are free to bike to work. Building to LEED silver requirements contributes to environmental sustainability and the health and comfort of our tenants, and, importantly, it provides an example of aggressive economic development in line with green practices that can be enjoyed for generations to come.

Aside from the building itself, Peoria NEXT is facilitating environmental sustainability as an entity. We are encouraging and assisting companies focused in such pursuits, and, as our tenants expand into regional and global markets, we are supporting the growth of green products and services. For instance, as Firefly Energy delivers its batteries to market, the negative impact from lead acid batteries will be greatly diminished. Their revolutionary lead acid battery technology is not only causing a stir in the battery industry for improved performance, it aids the environment through increased longevity and reduced lead content relative to competitors. Additionally, the heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration systems of EcoThermics promise dramatically increased efficiency and clean, natural refrigerants, reducing carbon emissions and diminishing ozone-reducing pollutants. BioFuels Manufacturing Illinois, Inc. is working hard to provide energy solutions using soybean oil as its primary fuel source, which will reduce petroleum consumption and increase energy independence for our region.

As we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center, it is clear that we are simultaneously encouraging economic and environmental viability in our region. While this bodes well for job growth and a clean, healthy central Illinois, the ramifications extend to the global marketplace as we assist in the development of environmentally sustainable goods and services that will compete throughout the world. iBi