Here are a few updates to end your week:
Passenger Rail: In the words of Ferris Buehler, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” I can’t believe I forgot to mention the biggest news of last week in my Weekend Update. Last Thursday, the City of Peoria and its partners announced they had been accepted into the Federal Transit Administration’s “Rail Corridor Identification Program.” This is the next, but certainly not final, big step in the Peoria area’s quest to create a passenger rail connection to Chicago. Championed by Peoria Mayor Ali and former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, but joined by mayors, elected officials and partners up and down the potential route, the route would be an economic boon to our region. It would facilitate business and leisure travel to and from Chicago as well as Starved Rock, Morris, LaSalle-Peru, and Joliet. A downtown Peoria station would also help to spur associated development nearby. Everyone was quick to caution that there were many steps yet to be taken, but none of those can be taken without this first one. GPEDC was happy to play a very small role on the strategy committee working on this important project. Greater mobility and investment in our downtown areas are key priorities in the Big Table CEDS. Congratulations to Mayor Ali, Secretary LaHood, the Peoria city staff, the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, and all the partners who helped get us to this stage.
Italian Visitors: Over the past year, GPEDC has welcomed visitors from Germany, Taiwan, Canada and Brazil. So it was only a matter of time before my own people – Italians! – made their way to Greater Peoria. Last Friday, Metalmont, an Italian manufacturing company specializing in grain handling equipment, visited Peoria as part of the customer discovery process in the US market. The company was referred to me by a consultant who I met nearly six years ago at a conference – proof that relationships matter in this business but also take time to mature. In a brief visit, the Metalmont CEO and his team were able to meet with BioUrja (the former ADM ethanol plant in Peoria) and Akron Services, a grain elevator company in Brimfield. It was also just a beautiful, sunny winter day to showcase our region. We help companies like Metalmont make inroads into the US for two reasons. First, if they are successful in landing local customers, they are more likely to choose our area if they establish an American presence. Second, and just as importantly, when we introduce these companies to our existing businesses, we are hoping they might find new solutions to their own problems, making their businesses more efficient and profitable. A win-win.
GPEDC Annual Meeting: You are invited to attend the GPEDC Annual Meeting on Tuesday, January 9 at 7:30 am. This annual gathering of our investors and partners is always a great way to learn about our organization and the work ahead of us. This year’s keynote speaker is Dan Seals, CEO of Intersect Illinois. Intersect markets the economic opportunities of the State of Illinois to the rest of the nation and world and is one of our strongest partners. Dan will talk about the state of business development and attraction in Illinois and share some of his thoughts on how Greater Peoria can succeed in this economic environment. The meeting will be at the Peoria Riverfront Museum. If you aren’t an investor, drop me a line, and I will make sure you are added to the calendar invite.
B2B NewBiz: Don’t forget to tell your small business friends about the newest state grant. The Back-to-Business (B2B) NewBiz program is designed to help businesses that opened in 2020 and 2021 – during the height of the COVID pandemic. Businesses can qualify for a grant of up to $30,000. GPEDC is managing a network of eleven local organizations poised to provide individual technical assistance to businesses seeking these grants. The deadline for submitting an application is January 11. You can learn more about the program here.
Deadline Approaching! The Foster College of Business at Bradley University is accepting applications for their Senior Capstone Course for the Spring 2024 semester. Senior business majors in the Foster College of Business have a graduation requirement to complete a Capstone course. These faculty-led, semester-long projects (16 weeks) not only gives the students a real-world experience, it provides their client with a written report with detailed analyses, specific recommendations, and implementation suggestions. Projects might include creating a strategic growth plan, conducting a feasibility study, developing a new marketing strategy or assisting in the launch of a new product or service. The program is provided at no cost to small businesses (500 employees or less). The deadline to apply is January 3. More information here.
Two weeks of shopping left! Get to it. Have a great weekend.