June 14, 2024

GPEDC Weekend Update- June 14, 2024

A few updates to end your week:

AgTech Connect: On Tuesday, we hosted our quarterly AgTech Connect networking event at Peoria NEXT. AgTech Connect aims to promote economic opportunity, sustainable growth and stimulate innovations in agriculture through effective networking and collaboration among stakeholders. Tuesday’s event provided a great introduction to key resources all aimed at increasing the profitability of agriculture products by shifting from traditional uses (food, feed, and fuel) to include bioproducts. Dr. Dave Demirjian of Midwest Bioprocessing Center and Dr. Dave Compton of the USDA AgLab discussed their partnership to develop an easy-to-formulate and effective SPF booster and photo protector for personal care items. They were followed by Dr. Beth Conerty of the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana who explained the opportunities presented by the newly formed Illinois Fermentation and Biomanufacturing Hub (iFAB). iFab has been designated as one of 31 EDA “Tech Hubs” and recognizes Central Illinois as a globally competitive center for innovation and job creation in biomanufacturing. 

Luncheon Introduction to iFAB: After AgTech Connect, we organized a lunchtime discussion at Bradley’s Business and Engineering Convergence Center with a smaller group of industry partners to further explore the iFAB partnership. Precision fermentation is a growing area of biomanufacturing that can turn local feedstocks, mainly corn and soybeans, into a variety of goods — including textiles, biofuels, food ingredients, polymers, pigments, and more domestically. This sustainable, scalable, and biological manufacturing process relies on microbes to convert sugars into high-value products.  Currently there are 9 different bioprocessing facilities employing nearly 1500 workers within the Greater Peoria region. Representatives from Alto Ingredients, Midwest Bioprocessing Center, PMP Fermentation, BioUrja and NFW heard more specifics about iFAB from Dr. Conerty. She encouraged each of them to join the iFAB consortium which currently includes 30 partner organizations representing academic, industry, government, and nonprofit partners committed to catalyzing industry growth. 

New Intern: Team GPEDC welcomes another great member as our new Communications & Marketing Intern. Ja’Chai Webster is from Centralia and is currently a senior at Illinois State University pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. With two years of social media experience, Ja’Chai has successfully managed his own website and social media posts for his small business, honing his skills in digital marketing and content creation, He is excited to take on new challenges here and looks forward to bringing his expertise and passion for marketing to contribute to the organization’s outreach and communication efforts, while further enhancing his skillset.

EWA Summer Retreat: The Emerging Workforce Alliance (EWA) is one of the pillars of the Regional Workforce Alliance and focuses on building alignment between our educational system and local industry and employers. On Monday, Sara and Jeffrey attended the EWA Summer Retreat at Methodist College. They heard from some of the EWA’s major partners such as Junior Achievement, ISAC, and AIRSS; as well as explored the new Illinois Success Network’s dashboard to review data on post-secondary pathways of students across Illinois. Methodist and Carle took the stage and gave insights on how they are working to build a strong talent pipeline through partnerships with regional schools and innovative work-based learning and transition programs for students to earn and learn while they explore opportunities and begin their journey toward a rewarding career in healthcare. 

Workforce Equity: The next day, Sara and Jeffrey attended the Workforce Equity Initiative (WEI) Symposium hosted by the ICCB and Illinois Central College. They were treated to a presentation by Keith Curry, the President of Compton College to highlight how he has transformed that campus into driving success to students and then heard from Rep. Gordon-Booth about how the idea of WEI came about and how Illinois Central College provided a great partnership and anchor for the state to start the program. The WEI helps students of color open doors to post-secondary education and credentialing with integrated wraparound services to help with things like child care, transportation, and more to ensure success. Statewide, the WEI has helped over 12,000 students make their way towards a credential or degree that will help them find employment that provides a family-sustaining wage. 

Have a great weekend.