Heartland Issues

Regional Reading for Entrepreneurial Growth
Vickie Clark - The Heartland Partnership

Recently, our region was featured in US News & World Report as a community with a stable economy, compared to many that are struggling. They highlighted Caterpillar’s global market strength and noted that we fare well due to a diverse economy that includes healthcare and technology.

Our diverse economy is due in large part to community leaders taking strategic action to ensure this diversity. One area of concentration, as cited by US News, has been technology. This vast field can be ripe with harvest as long as we continue to create an environment in which entrepreneurs can thrive.

With companies like Firefly, InformMed and other tenants at the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center, we have seen how successful businesses can be in an entrepreneurial environment. Most recently, iRepair Squad, which got its start through programs at Bradley University, Project Springboard and Peoria NEXT, could very well become a company with multiple international growth phases that provides technical, logistical and managerial jobs throughout our region. Keeping such entrepreneurial businesses in our region will provide a return on the investment made through the multiple partners who help create such an entrepreneurial environment. The return on investment for such businesses will be seen in new jobs, a greater tax base and community vibrancy.

To keep our momentum and stave off competing locations that would court these businesses to other states and communities, we must further enhance our regional readiness for entrepreneurial growth. This is a fast-paced, competitive business, and communities with the best environment for entrepreneurial success will win.
We are most competitive when we work together. We already have a strong foundation for success—the key is to build upon that foundation. In the next few months, we will be conducting discussions through our technology commercialization strategy group, our boards and with economic development partners.

The communication structures we have created (strategy group to EDGE Board to EDC and Peoria NEXT boards) will allow us to expedite the collaboration needed. Each committee and board has a mix of private sector, public sector and stakeholder members to enable thorough input and output as we fine-tune our business models. Procedures can be put in place to clearly communicate our support mechanisms for entrepreneurs and to create new and stronger regional collaborations to develop even more programs.

At a time when communities across the nation are experiencing unstable economies, partnerships between the public and private sectors will be even more critical. We can rise above the competition as we take strategic action to build upon our diverse economy. Sustaining a vibrant entrepreneurial environment is an important component of that diversity. IBI

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