Business Matters is a series of brief conversations to check-in with corporate, civic, and community stakeholders to gauge the health and progress of our local entrepreneurial ecosystems across Central Illinois. Where are we at today? Are we making progress? How can we support startups and innovation? This is one of many conversations to discover more about the current challenges, hidden opportunities and future possibilities.
What were the highlights or critical moments of 2015 for you?
Well, of course there were the two major ones from Caterpillar (headquarters and strategic restructuring). It’s been great to see the re-establishment of the EDC and all of the headway they are making. The Peoria-area Chamber has done a great job of engagement on advocacy issues. From the CEO Council standpoint, it’s definitely the four new projects we’re taking on.
Do you see any issues, gaps, or improvements that the Peoria-area entrepreneurial ecosystem needs to address?
Communication, education, and funding.
Which would you focus on first?
That’s tough, because education and funding is like a chicken and egg dilemma. But they have to know where things are first, so I’ll go with communication.
How do you solve that?
We need a collaborative communication strategy between the private and public sector that can assist in understanding what resources are available and how to make advances with your business or idea.
What’s your vision for Peoria’s entrepreneurial, startup, and small business future?
Obviously, this area has a long history of manufacturing, but there’s also been an emerging IT industry paired with a rapidly growing healthcare industry. We’ve been getting excited about innovation, now it’s time to let people go nuts with it.
If we can take what we’ve traditionally been good at and put a new spin on it, we’ll continue to see those deep roots grow. I’d like to see employers getting into the mix of things when it comes to innovation. Give people the flexibility and opportunity to innovate. Will other industries take a page out of the education field and let their employees take a sabbatical to pursue their next big idea?
What do you find most exciting about the current Peoria entrepreneurial scene?
It’s a warm, inviting community and many people in the region are supportive. If we can up the ante on a few things, then we’ll really start to feel a lot of that change start to happen.