March 24, 2023

GPEDC Weekend Update- March 24, 2023

Here are some GPEDC updates to end your week:

New State Grants: On Tuesday, Illinois DCEO announced three new programs designed to help three specific business types recover from the financial impacts of COVID: restaurants ($50M total), hotels/lodging ($75M total) and creative arts ($50M total). Once again Greater Peoria EDC has implemented its network of 11 “Community Navigator” agencies to help these businesses across seven counties to both be aware of the program and get assistance with the application process. In the coming weeks we will be rolling out a local advertising campaign on television and radio to help spread the word. You can find more information here where you can also be connected to the Navigator in your area to help. Grant applications will be accepted between April 5 and May 10. GPEDC and its partners have helped local businesses receive nearly $4M in relief funds since the beginning of COVID.

NLC Grant: Thanks to some hard work by Kathie and Andrew, the National League of Cities awarded the City of Peoria a grant that will fund CivStart’s work to help the city assess startups that are interested in engaging with the City using a challenge-based procurement program that launched last year. This new method publishes “challenge statements” that help startups focus on specific areas where their technologies and expertise can be leveraged to help the city grow the local economy. Reach out to either Kathie or Andrew for more information.

ICC Strategic Planning: Kari and I joined dozens of community and business leaders for a day-long strategic planning retreat for Illinois Central College. I have been a part of my fair share of planning sessions in the past, but will tell you with all honesty that this was great. As outsiders to the day-to-day operations and issues of a community college, we were given a great basis of information and insight into three particular strategic areas: student engagement, course construction, and micro-credentialing. Each session was well-structured and informative. I really felt that ICC leadership was listening to the feedback of the assembled crowd. ICC is so important to our region’s economic prospects, and I’m excited to see how this new strategic plan shapes up. Media coverage here.

Big Ideas: Yesterday, Bradley’s Turner School of Entrepreneurship hosted its annual “Big Idea” trade show. Twenty five student teams showed off their business ideas science fair style in the Peplow Pavilion. They were judged by guests who visited each booth. But on the first floor I was joined by three other judges who spent three hours listening to twenty five two minute pitches and asking questions of each student representative. I was blown away by some of the amazing ideas for products and services ranging from shoe sanitizers for hospitals to gun-detecting AI systems for schools to a phone app that synchronizes your playlist to your workout regimen. While some of these students are just coming up with ideas as class projects, most are serious about launching their companies. Our hope is to engage them before graduation and connect them with our local startup ecosystem. Some nice media coverage here and here

DigiFarmz and Spark Learn: Speaking of startups, so more good news. Two of our startups have been accepted into two separate gener8tor accelerator programs. SparkLearn, a Morton based company that has developed a software learning platform to help with employee training, was one of five startups admitted into the OnRamp Education and Workforce Innovation Accelerator in Minneapolis. SparkLearn is a graduate of Distillery Labs’ gBeta program. Simultaneously, DigiFarmz was accepted into the Illinois AgTech Accelerator based out of the University of Illinois Champaign Urbana. DigiFarmz is a Brazilian startup that is establishing its first North American office in Peoria. In addition to the amazing programming and assistance provided during the accelerators, each company also receives an investment of $100,000. 

I know Melissa Entzminger (Keith Engineering Design) and Michael Maloof (Jim Maloof Realtor) read this email. Did you? Let me know if you appreciate this content and what else you’d like to see. Have a great weekend!