February 26, 2024

The Booming Healthcare Landscape

Earlier this month, Greater Peoria gathered to cut a very special ribbon: The OSF Healthcare Cancer Institute opened its doors to serve not only our family, friends, and neighbors but also patients who will come here from across the Midwest. From an economic development perspective, this is one of the most important stories of the past decade. I’ve used this space to share the critical role healthcare plays in our local economy. As of December 2023, an estimated 34,000 jobs are within the “Education and Health Services” category, and I can only assume the vast majority of those are on the healthcare side. Healthcare’s importance should not overshadow the role of manufacturing and other economic sectors – at its base, healthcare is a service industry serving people with jobs in other fields. But something special is happening in Greater Peoria when it comes to healthcare.

Healthcare has historically been treated by economic development professionals as somewhat secondary because it typically serves the region within which it resides. The economic development profession is geared towards wealth attraction and tends to focus on businesses that bring dollars into a community rather than those that circulate local dollars. But in Greater Peoria, our healthcare industry is bringing dollars into the community. Certainly, OSF Healthcare being headquartered in Peoria, but having over a dozen hospitals around Illinois is a good example of this. Every time OSF acquires a hospital – as they just did in LaSalle-Peru – they add some administrative capacity locally. Peoria’s St. Francis Hospital also becomes the destination for more specialized medical treatment for patients from those hospitals and areas. Peoria built a Ronald McDonald House a few years ago because so many families from outside our region were getting services like pediatric oncology and neonatal care at St. Francis.

But the Cancer Institute is a game changer. It will certainly provide a quality-of-life booster to those of us who live here. Those seeking out advanced cancer care won’t need to travel to Rochester, Chicago, or Houston to get the latest treatment. It’s in our own backyard. As we look to showcase our region as a place to live and work, the high-quality healthcare services available here are definitely a selling point. These advanced systems also help to keep our retirees here.

This level of care – with only a small handful of competitors across the country – can make Peoria a destination for people from an equally wide territory. I know at least a half dozen Peorians who left our community to get the sort of cancer treatment that is now available here. There are thousands of people across Illinois, the Midwest, and maybe even internationally who will now come here for treatment. What might that mean for our hospitality industry and destinations like downtown Peoria? How do we capitalize on this new type of visitor, making them feel both welcome and maybe helping them decide this could be their permanent home?

Investment begets investment, and I am really excited to help figure out what is next for Greater Peoria in the healthcare universe. Both Carle and OSF are making significant investments in mental and behavioral health. Initiatives like Distillery Labs and Peoria Next are helping position our region as a place where medical innovators can thrive and build their companies. We have much to look forward to.