I typically use this space in our monthly newsletter to discuss a broad topic regarding our regional economy, whether that has been about talent attraction, the importance of manufacturing or the rise of the healthcare industry. But this month I just have to brag a bit about the great work GPEDC has been doing. Witnessing on a daily basis the level of professionalism, dedication, creativity and hard work demonstrated by our “small but mighty” team is probably the best part of my job. Come with me as I give you just a taste of some of our recent work.
A few weeks ago, GPEDC was awarded a state Community Navigator grant. Under this grant, we have assembled a team of ten local nonprofit organizations who will be the “boots on the ground” in helping our small businesses apply for local, state and federal COVID relief funds. Illinois is about to launch its big “Back to Business” grant ($250 million in total funds available) and having this network of service providers in our region will help maximize the chances that our businesses have in getting the help they need.
In business attraction, we worked closely with Jake Becraft and Peoria Bio-Made to launch a robust marketing campaign aimed at sharing with the world the viability of Greater Peoria to be the next hub for biomedical manufacturing. This included putting together a comprehensive pitch document and creating a landing page on our website. The timing was perfect: Business Facilities, an industry publication for site selectors, just named our region the sixth best midsize health care hub in the nation. We also finalized a great video and website highlighting Pekin’s South Industrial Park.
Our business assistance efforts saw a lot of great success over the past few months. We worked with Rivian in nearby McLean County to get them approved to take advantage of the benefits of our Foreign Trade Zone. We were awarded a Defense Department subgrant via the University of Illinois Chicago to continue helping our local manufacturing community engage the defense industry through the Illinois Defense Network. And the Greater Peoria Manufacturing Network has refined its strategy and is actively connecting our regional manufacturers and service providers with new customers.
We have continued our amazing partnership with Distillery Labs. Together we are developing the programming that will really help drive small business growth in our region. We are in the final stages of securing a grant from the US Economic Development Administration to complement a large state grant that will allow our exact vision for the building to become a reality. I hope you’ll be able to join us for our Launch Party on August 26.
The (delayed) 2020 Career Spark wrapped up in April. Over 5000 middle and high school students walked through the virtual platform, learning all about the region’s career opportunities. Planning for the 2021 version, which again will be using the virtual platform, is underway with a plan to launch in October. Also, in partnership with the Regional Workforce Alliance we are working to develop a Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) program. TPM will help to better connect our employers with the workforce development system (schools, colleges, social services) to ensure that employment needs can be addressed. Look for more on that soon.
And last but not least, we have had a lot of success in our rural areas. We worked with some of our smallest communities to help them apply for over $1 million in relief dollars (Local CURES) that was available from the state. Six rural businesses were assisted in receiving over $600,000 in federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund grants. On a more systemic level, we really ramped up our efforts around rural broadband. We received a $15,000 planning grant from Illinois Connected Communities to help Tazewell County think through a broadband expansion strategy. Thanks to Lead for America’s Connection Corps we have secured a full-time AmeriCorps fellow who will work exclusively on improving broadband availability and accessibility in both rural and urban parts of our region.
That’s a lot of great work in just the past few months. Like I said, the team at GPEDC is amazing and comes to work each day with the mission of improving our region. That work does not happen without the support of our investors. If you are reading this and are one of those investors, thank you! If you aren’t but want to learn more, please give me a call.