June 07, 2024

GPEDC Weekend Update- June 7, 2024

A few updates to end your week:

RWA Relaunch + Newmark: Wednesday morning was one of those times I wish I could bottle. A crowd of over 50 – and importantly a bunch of new faces – joined GPEDC, the CEO Council and the Regional Workforce Alliance (RWA) at ICC’s North Peoria campus for a conversation about the state of our workforce and workforce development efforts. First up was Dr. Sheila Quirk-Bailey, among lots of other things the co-chair of the RWA, who provided a recap of the last five years of work and progress of the RWA. The work has been impactful: a 38% increase in high school students receiving work-based experiences; a 1,443% increase in College pre-apprenticeships (you read that number right); 6,927 employees upskilled in customized programs; and well over $30 million in external funding dedicated to workforce programs. And that’s just a fraction of the success. You can see the slides from her presentation here.

Next up was Kim Moore and Emma Nippe of Newmark. GPEDC hired the Newmark consulting team through a grant provided by the State of Illinois to conduct an analysis of our regional workforce and provide recommendations on how to push our initiatives forward. In addition to being economic development consultants, Newmark has a rich site selection practice, giving them a unique perspective on the quality of workforce programs. Kim and Emma shared a profile of our region’s labor pool, presented perspectives on our strengths and weaknesses, and outlined a series of data-driven recommendations on how to improve. Their presentation can be found here.

Those presentations were followed up by a very interactive Q&A feedback session led by Joshua Gunn and I. The attendees were pretty engaged in discussing their own challenges as employers, educators, and service providers and their input will help us craft new strategies. 

More Newmark: Through an EDA grant, GPEDC was also able to hire Newmark to conduct a different (but definitely related) analysis: A targeted industry analysis. Building on their work from the initial engagement, Newmark is conducting further investigation on the best types of businesses to pursue. The results, which will be delivered later this summer, will help refine GPEDC’s business attraction efforts. Since Emma and Kim were in town for Wednesday’s presentation, we capitalized on the visit to showcase Peoria a bit more. We visited some vacant office space, took a guided tour of the nearly-complete Distillery Labs, and had a discussion with OSF Healthcare’s innovation group. Nothing like killing two birds with one stone.

IMA Recognition: Our friends at the Illinois Manufacturers Association (IMA) had a busy week of announcing some honors, and Greater Peoria did not miss out. First, Caterpillar will be among the first inductees into the new Illinois Manufacturing Hall of Fame. IMA notes, “an innovative company that helped build America, Caterpillar’s legacy began with the production of a steam tractor in 1890 and now includes famed mining, agriculture, and construction equipment such as bulldozers, road graders and large mining trucks.” The next day, IMA announced the finalists for their new Manufacturing Excellence Awards. The following local companies are among the named: Morton Industries is a finalist for both the Champion of Operational Excellence Award and the Workforce Excellence Award. Natural Fiber Welding is a finalist for the Sustainability Champion of the Year Award (nominated by GPEDC). More information on the Hall of Fame and awards here.

Happy 50th: June marks the start of the celebration of the 50th birthday of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. CDGS is a major economic development program of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development that directs funds directly to both cities and states. The funds can be used for a wide range of activities, including affordable housing development, business incentive programs and public works projects. GPEDC has been an active partner with the State of Illinois in investigating, applying for and managing grants. Between Jim Cummings (GPEDC grant consultant) and Sally Hanley (VP of Programs), GPEDC has helped secure millions of dollars in funds for projects ranging from water towers in rural communities to business expansion grants. Happy birthday to a great bit of federal legislation.

GPEDC Executive Board: The first week of a month always brings with it a GPEDC board meeting. In addition to our normal business this month, we also got a chance to take a tour of Distillery Labs (if you are counting, that’s two identical tours for me this week!). For many of our board members, this was their first peek at the nearly-complete facility. GPEDC was there at the beginning: In 2016, with the help of Caterpillar and EDA, the then-monikered Catalyst project was launched. They say good things come to those who wait, right? Well, in late July this will no longer be just a plan.  Also, if it’s board week, there are strategy reports to read. You can read them here.

Enjoy this awesome weather and have a great weekend.