More Eggs, More Baskets

by Jennifer Daly
Greater Peoria Economic Development Council

A new, collaborative effort is set to generate business opportunities for area manufacturers.

My mom used to say, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” As a kid, I never knew what she meant, but today the phrase rings true when it comes to Greater Peoria. Our economy is heavily dependent on the earthmoving industry. When things are booming, we can barely keep up. When that industry contracts, however, a domino effect ensues… and we see extensive layoffs and manufacturers who struggle to keep their doors open.

In 2014, our organization received a technical assistance grant through the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to research our manufacturing sector and identify opportunities to diversify its client base. The study included a deep dive into the capabilities and expertise of our local manufacturers, as well as the discovery of industries beyond earthmoving, for which they may be ideal to serve. It revealed a list of targets and a recommendation to begin a network of regional manufacturers who could pool their resources and knowledge to pursue new clients, bid collectively on larger projects, and explore overseas sales and government contracts.

Before launching a network, we spent nearly a full year on a proof-of-concept phase, supported by a grant from the JP Morgan Chase Foundation. A group of manufacturers worked with our chosen contractor to pursue new sales opportunities based on the findings of our study. One manufacturer received a new government contract during the pilot through a trade mission to the Rock Island Arsenal. In addition, participating manufacturers were introduced to an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) which may offer new bidding opportunities. Various local partners, including the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC), Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) and the International Trade Center (ITC), were an essential part of the team.

As we wrapped up the pilot and considered the launch of the Greater Peoria Manufacturing Network, we knew identifying the right director would be critical. It had to be someone with an extensive background in manufacturing, sales experience, an extensive network and the ability to bring a group of often competing manufacturers together to work in collaboration. We were thrilled to find all that and more in Mark Hanback.

An early retiree from Caterpillar, Mark has more than 38 years of experience in accounting, operations, product management and general management positions. As the executive director of CPS at Caterpillar, his team was responsible for corporate processes including operations planning, real estate, quality, capability building and supply chain. His 20-plus years of experience in the region and his deep knowledge of our local manufacturers was a unique asset that made him ideal for this role.

Mark began as director of the Greater Peoria Manufacturing Network in May and is actively encouraging manufacturers throughout Greater Peoria to join the new network. All manufacturers who supply the earthmoving industry and are located in Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Mason or Logan counties are eligible. More information is available at greaterpeoriaedc.org/grow/manufacturing-network.

Nine manufacturers have already signed on, and we know many more will come to the table. Our goal is to help these employers grow and diversify their sales. Basically, we want them to have many more eggs in many more baskets. And with Mark’s leadership and the support of partners like IMEC, PTAC and ITC, I have no doubt this effort will be extremely successful. iBi

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