December 17, 2021

GPEDC Weekend Update- December 17

Some GPEDC updates to end your week:

Build Back Better: Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. A few months ago, our region (including GPEDC, Distillery Labs and ICC) partnered with similar organizations in Bloomington, Champaign, Springfield and Decatur to apply to EDA’s Build Back Better Challenge. Led by the University of Illinois, a successful grant application would have provided $500,000 in technical assistance funds to develop a second application for up to $75 million to make key investments in advanced manufacturing, innovation and smart cities infrastructure in Central Illinois. Nationwide over 500 applications were submitted and EDA only awarded 60 stage one grants. Unfortunately, our application was not one of them. The only Illinois grant was awarded to mHub in Chicago (full list here). While disappointing, there was certainly value in the exercise of collaborating with our regional partners. We are looking at other sources of funding for some of the great, transformative projects we had identified.

Career Spark Update: Kari shared some updated numbers on Career Spark, our (virtual) career expo.  A total of 3,521 8th grade students have registered for the experience, and another 4,617 high school students will be participating in the “You’re Hired” event in early 2022. Even better, Kari shared some of the student feedback. These were my two favorite answers to the question of the coolest thing learned: “That you can do many things without a college degree” and “That successful people aren’t successful on accident.” Those are two great takeaways.

Chicago Meetings: Our road warrior, Lenora, is back out this week. She ran up to Chicago for a series of meetings, including meeting with the Mexican Consul General, German American Chamber of Commerce and Intersect Illinois (our state’s public-private marketing organization for business attraction). These touch points are an important part of relationship building and our strategy of being in the hunt for foreign direct investment.

Award Winner: While this award was based on work done with University of Illinois Extension, it’s still worth celebrating! Kathie Brown (our Rural Outreach and Development Director) was given the “Outstanding Public Servant Award” by Prairie Rivers Network. From the announcement: “Kathie served the Fulton and Mason County communities where the Duck Creek and Havana Coal Fired Power Stations closed in 2019. Communities were given just 3 months notice of the closures that brought workforce layoffs, environmental concerns, and a drastic decrease in local tax revenue to fund services like public schools. Immediately Kathie began working with community leaders, workers, and other organizations, like PRN, to help understand the impacts of coal plant closure, tell their story, and plan for the future. Last fall PRN partnered with the Just Transition Fund and Kathie to help convene five communities undergoing or planning for closure.  With her help we connected community leaders with policy experts at the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition (ICJC), as well as at the Governor’s office. These meetings were a two way conversation, providing policy makers a chance to hear from impacted coal communities, and a chance for community leaders to understand potential policy solutions. Kathie’s leadership on coal community transition was in addition to many other economic development efforts and initiatives helping former coal plant communities Canton and Havana plan for a more resilient post-coal future.” A well deserved award, for sure!

This is the last GPEDC Weekend Update for 2021 as no one is really going to be reading emails on Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and I’m going to be on vacation. I hope you all have a great end of the year and are able to celebrate with family and friends. I’m looking forward to 2022! 

Have a great weekend!