July 24, 2023

Greater Peoria’s Progress: Building a Robust Healthcare Ecosystem for Economic Growth and Business Attraction

After October’s Pharma and BioManufacturing Familiarity Tour, we are circling back with the participants to provide updates on the progress made regarding the suggestions from the guests. Peoria’s progress has piqued the interest of these guests, and we will now recap their recommendations and report the developments made in response. Sharing these efforts is to garner ongoing support for expanding Greater Peoria’s (GP) robust healthcare ecosystem, driving economic growth, and attracting businesses.

Leverage what you already have: There are elements of the life sciences industry in the region, but they need to be “knitted together.” 
Progress since October:

  • The GPEDC is updating our list of the region’s Healthcare and Life Science assets and will seek input on contact in the weeks and months ahead.  You can view research from 2021 here. 
  • Upon collective review of the current assets, we will identify gaps in the market and build a healthcare/life science strategy to recruit companies that meet the needs of our existing employers.
  • The GPEDC & IMEC partnered to refresh the BioManufacturing asset outline in the region, laying the groundwork for a life science attraction strategy.  Here is a sneak peek into the research done already. 
  • A working group has formed to leverage the research and build a strategy for more unified storytelling around our life sciences industry in the future.  If you would like to join that working group, please indicate your interest by writing lfisher@greaterpeoriaedc.org.

Map Your Workforce:  Conduct a workforce survey to show area skill sets transferable to biomanufacturing.
Progress since October:

  • IMEC and the GPEDC have researched relevant academic programs related to the BioManufacturing Industry as well as the completion rates to inform company needs.  You can see the results of that research in the Jobs & Skills Research Document and the Peoria BioMade Research doc here
  • The Regional Workforce Alliance is developing a workforce asset map for the major industry clusters in our area, including the healthcare and life science industries.  If you’d like to know more about that effort, don’t hesitate to contact Chris Setti at the GPEDC by writing csetti@greaterpeoriaedc.org.
  • The GP region was selected as a Talent Pipeline Management region, and the healthcare/life science assets are actively engaged in that process.  To learn more about this initiative, contact Chris Setti at csetti@greaterpeoriaedc.org.
  • If there is interest in pursuing a workforce survey transferable to biomanufacturing, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Chris Setti at csetti@greaterpeoriaedc.org.

Support Your Training Programs:  Seek opportunities for donated equipment (e.g., bioreactors) to help launch training programs at Illinois Central College.
Progress since October:

  • The GPEDC initiated meetings with ICC to understand their capacity to map biomanufacturing career pathways and their interest in supporting this effort.  Those conversations continue.
  • Outreach to our local academic institutions will continue once the Healthcare/LifeScience Connect committee is formed.

Business Attraction Starts Local:  Grow your own first (Short Term); it’s the best attraction tool (Long Term).
Progress since October:

  • The GPEDC organized conversations with RHEO engineering, Veloxity Labs, Midwest BioProcessing and the City of Peoria and to support growth, collaborations, and expansion opportunities.
  • Met with leadership at UICOMP to discuss opportunities to expand their physical and research assets and the conversation continues.
  • The GPEDC, in partnership with Distillery Labs and gBeta, is working to bring a gener8tor Healthcare Onramp event to the Greater Peoria region in 2024.  The goals for this effort are to identify and engage local stakeholders in ecosystem building, identify new healthcare business opportunities, put GP on the radar of Healthcare Startup businesses in other locations and also to generate interest, excitement, and support of the businesses already here. Stay tuned for more information here!

What’s GP’s Niche and fastest route to becoming a life science destination? Position Peoria as a destination for life sciences; however, the narrative must be nuanced to the right segments of Biomanufacturing or perhaps other life sciences segments (AgBio?).
Progress since October:

  • In June of 2023, The City of Peoria released a Technology Industry Grant to support its strong ecosystem of tech industries. This includes AgTech, BioTech, MedTech, and other forms of technological advancement, development, and tech industry support. Priority locations for funding through the program are in the Medical District, the Central Business District, and West Main Street.  This grant program provides technology-related businesses seeking to locate or expand an opportunity to receive funding between $10,000 and $25,000. Funding is provided through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) with total program allotment of $250,000.  https://peoriagov.org/TechnologyGrant
  • Following the collaborative asset mapping process, we will be better positioned to identify the right segments of BioManufacturers.
  • The Ag Tech connect efforts are further along in this mapping process, and you can learn more about their research here.

Validate therapeutics: Do we know if this is happening here?
Progress since October

  • This will be an outcome of the mapping and strategy efforts mentioned above.
  • If you know of therapeutics companies in the region, please write lfisher@greaterpeoriaedc.org for adding them to the asset map.

Benchmark with other communities:  Don’t reinvent the wheel. Look at some peer communities and be realistic.
Progress since October:

  • Lenora has collected marketing materials from competitor regions that she uses as benchmarks for GP’s efforts.
  • She has also conducted interviews with other biotech regions and can leverage those insights for the region’s efforts. 
  • The GPEDC currently benchmarks itself against several competitor locations.  Those comparisons can be found midpage on this website.

Activate Downtown Peoria:  Engage an urban design team to develop a long-term downtown development strategy that integrates with the local and regional economic development strategies. Unless more residential development takes place in downtown and it becomes a destination for younger homeowners, it would be challenging to build a memorable place that attracts talent.
Progress since October:

  • The Downtown Advisory Commission, Downtown Development Corporation, Peoria Magazines, and the GPEDC quantified the investments in Peoria’s downtown core, amounting to $735 Million and counting.  You can read more about that investment here
  • Lenora has regularly attended the Downtown Advisory Committee meetings and joined formally as a commissioner in June of 2023.
  • The City announced the development of 176 new residential units in the Warehouse District in May, to create vibrancy and help downtown become a lifestyle destination for the region.
  • Community stakeholders have hosted several walk audits with Mark Fenton to understand the economic and social impacts of a built environment designed for people rather than cars.  These insights will inform additional downtown development efforts and streetscapes.  The current plans for making the streets 2 way, wayfinding, and lighting improvements are important steps in improving the look, feel and safety of Peoria’s downtown.
  • The Madison Theater Revitalization continues to build momentum for a thriving, walkable theater and entertainment district.  They are planning a street festival to model the possibilities for revitalizing this block in September 2024.  Follow their updates on Facebook or donate to the cause here.  

All that to say, a lot has happened behind the scenes to follow up on the Site Selectors’ suggestions, and we look forward to reporting continued progress in the weeks and months ahead.  Please don’t forget to reach out if you have suggestions for the ecosystem mapper or would like to be considered for the working group.

We appreciate your interest and support of these efforts to attract businesses to the area and boost the region’s economic vitality.

Lenora Fisher,

Business Attraction Director.