Some GPEDC updates to end your week:
Broadband Expansion Grant: Over the past year or so, GPEDC has been at the forefront of helping our rural communities better understand their broadband needs and prepare themselves for considerable federal and state funding that will soon be available. That work just got a huge boost. Due to the hard work of Kathie Brown, our Director of Rural Outreach and Development, the Just Transition Fund has awarded GPEDC a $150,000 grant to support the region’s efforts around broadband expansion in 2023. Among its uses, we will be able to use these funds to create subgrants to serve as matching funds to leverage public and private dollars to advance local efforts like feasibility studies, grant writing services and technical assistance. Our thanks to the Just Transition Fund, and my appreciation for Kathie and the strong connections she has made in this field.
Brazilians in Greater Peoria: In my last Weekend Update I shared that I was invited to make a presentation in Chicago to fifteen Brazilian companies who were in the US seeking partners, customers and investors. Over the following week, five of those companies visited Greater Peoria to learn more about our great community and to start thinking about choosing us as their first American outpost. On the Friday before Thanksgiving, I hosted four companies: Nanox, a company that uses antimicrobials to improve packaging; Cogtive, an industrial process improvement technology firm; KrillTech, an agricultural innovator that increases crop yields; and PixForce, a technology company that optimizes counting and inspection using camera technology. The following week, Lenora hosted a fifth company, DigiFarmz, an AgTech company that has built an app for farm management. During the visits, we took these founders on tours of the community, organized meetings with key stakeholders and potential partners, and showed them unique assets like the USDA Ag Lab and the Nest Coworking space. All five companies really enjoyed the visit and were drawn to Greater Peoria’s affordability, proximity to potential customers, and great sense of community. Lenora, Andrew and I will be following up with these companies in the following weeks to see if we can convince them to choose Peoria.
Mixed Employment and Jobs Report: If you’ve read my monthly analyses of the IDES monthly reports on employment and jobs, you’ll remember that for while they were real head scratchers. Employment numbers (based on where the employee lives) were trending down while the jobs numbers (based on where the job was located) were increasing. Then, it sort of corrected itself and the numbers were closer. Well, the October report went the other direction. The number of “employed persons” in the Peoria MSA dropped by about 1,100 between September and October (about the same drop in labor force). By contrast, the jobs report for the Peoria MSA showed an increase by 1,700 jobs. The biggest gain was in “business and professional services” (+800), an industry that has a bit of volatility because it includes temporary employment service companies. The unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 4.5%. More data here. We will continue to keep an eye on these numbers.
Have a great weekend.