April 21, 2023

GPEDC Weekend Update- April 21, 2023

Here are some GPEDC updates to end your week:

Choose Greater Peoria: I almost feel like this will be old news since from the pictures it seemed like everyone who might be reading this was there, but yesterday was the launch of “Choose Greater Peoria.” (I actually had to miss it because I was in Chicago; see below.) The Gilmore Foundation has helped to drive corporate investment into a new talent attraction and regional branding campaign that will kick off in May. This is the evolution of the “GP2030” talent initiative that was initiated by GPEDC, the CEO Council, Discover Peoria and the regional chambers of commerce in late 2021. That effort was funded by less than $100,000 a year; in contrast, Choose Greater Peoria will deploy over $1 million in resources to really get the message of “choosing greater” into the world. It has been a pleasure over the last few months of working alongside our civic organization partners, the Gilmore Foundation and Simantel to craft this important set of messages. Be on the lookout for more great information about this program and how you can get involved. Nice media coverage across Peoria outlets, but a particularly good write up by WCBU here.

Distillery Labs Update: It truly was a “sigh of relief” (as the press release said) for us to make two announcements about Distillery Labs on Wednesday. First, all our construction contracts have been signed for the renovation of the former ICC Thomas Building. To say this has been a long road would be an understatement. Right about this time last year we were preparing to go out to bid for this work and just a few months later found out we were nearly $2.5 million over our budget of $8 million. That forced us to go back to the drawing board a bit and scale back some of the aesthetic elements but preserve all of the programming pieces. Earlier this year our revised bids came back on budget, allowing us to proceed with the construction process. Because of lead time on HVAC and other equipment, construction will not start until late summer.

Second, and related, we announced that the search for a new Executive Director has commenced. The Distillery Labs’ Board wanted to hold off on starting this search until it knew exactly what it was building and when it would be built. (Of course, when I agreed to serve as interim ED, I thought we’d have those answers in July 2022….) With those pieces now in place it is time to find the right leader for this important economic initiative for Greater Peoria. You can find the job posting here. Please feel free to share the opportunity with anyone you think would be interested. And if that is you, please drop me a line (all inquiries confidential, of course).

Day in Chicago: I missed the Choose Greater Peoria launch event because Lenora and I were in Chicago for two events hosted by the Illinois Economic Development Association (IEDA). First, IEDA organized a site selector forum where four consultants shared their thoughts on business attraction, the importance of workforce development, the image and reputation of the state of Illinois, and the value of incentives. Always good content and great questions from our colleagues around the state. One of the panelists was Bob Hess from Newmark. Bob was one of the three consultants who visited Peoria during our “familiarization tour” last fall. Great to reconnect with him. After the forum, IEDA hosted foreign consul generals for a cocktail reception. It’s really great to get all of these important economic leaders in one place. Between Lenora and I (and, frankly, more Lenora than I) we connected with the consulates of Taipei, Serbia, Sweden, Norway, Chile, Israel and Australia. Connecting with consulates is a big part of our business attraction strategy.

Big Idea: Bradley’s Turner School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation is hosting the final round of their Big Idea pitch competition for student startups. This is a great event and gives you a potential glance into the next big thing. The event is April 24 from 3 – 5 pm in the Peplow Pavilion at Bradley University. More information here.

B2B Grants: A few weeks remain for restaurants, hotels and creative arts businesses to apply for Illinois Back-to-Business grants. Applications accepted through May 10. More information at www.gpcovid.com where businesses can also request help from one of GPEDC’s “Community Navigators.”

Have a great weekend.