Peoria region receives federal manufacturing designation

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The Peoria area has received federal designation as a “manufacturing community,” which could help the area as it pursues new growth in that sector, political and civic leaders said.

The Greater Peoria Economic Development Council was designated one of only 12 agencies nationwide to receive the distinction from the U.S. Department of Commerce for the region it represents. The announcement was made jointly by U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL.

“This is huge for us. We worked really hard to get this because we felt it was important for the work we’re doing here,” said Jennifer Daly, CEO of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council. “This may open some important doors for us moving forward. We are the earthmoving equipment industry capital of the world and this will help us grow that manufacturing cluster.”

The Commerce Department made the designation as part of its Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) initiative. This program, which began last year, is designed to accelerate the resurgence of manufacturing in communities nationwide by supporting the development of long-term economic development strategies.

“Today’s announcement designating central Illinois as a ‘manufacturing community’ is great news for our region’s workers and our economy,” Bustos said. “This federal designation not only recognizes our region’s rich manufacturing heritage but will help ensure we continue to be a leader in creating the good-paying manufacturing jobs of today and the future. I look forward to continuing to work with both our public and private sectors partners to keep Illinois’ manufacturing resurgence on track.”  

Added Durbin, “Under the leadership of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council and others, central Illinois is distinguishing itself as one of our country’s leading centers of manufacturing. Today’s federal designation will allow the region’s manufacturing sector to build on its historical strengths and leverage recent growth – including the federally funded Digital Manufacturing Lab – by expanding access to federal funding and resources.”

The criteria used in selecting the 12 communities included the strength of their economic development plans, the potential for impact in their communities, and the depths of their partnerships across the public and private sectors to carry out their plans.

The Greater Peoria EDC, which covers Peoria, Tazewell, Wood, Logan and Mason counties, submitted the multi-page application in March and included in it the strategic plan already in place through the group’s Focus Forward initiative, Daly said. Included in the strategies within the initiative were several in the manufacturing sector that already were in the process of being implemented, she added.

Those include developing resiliency among companies that are suppliers to original equipment manufacturers such as Caterpillar Inc. Daly said the supply chain in central Illinois is “fantastic, but not very diverse.”

If Caterpillar or another OEM slows manufacturing, the suppliers can be hampered if it has few or no other customers. “We are helping them to identify other industries they can supply to so they can become more diverse themselves and be better able to survive if the economy struggles,” Daly said.

Another strategy being implemented is identifying ways to develop a workforce, through training mostly, that can truly support the area’s manufacturing sector, she said.

With the designation the Greater Peoria EDC will receive help from dedicated liaisons in working with 11 other federal agencies that have more than $1 billion available in federal economic development assistance. Those agencies are:

They will also be recognized on a government website, accessible to prospective private foreign and domestic investors, looking for information on communities’ competitive attributes.

The 12 Manufacturing Communities are:

1. The Greater Pittsburgh Metals Manufacturing Community led by Catalyst Connection in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

2. The Alamo Manufacturing Partnership, led by the University of Texas at San Antonio in the San Antonio, Texas metro area.

3. The Louisiana Chemical Corridor led by Louisiana State University, stretching from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

4. The Madison Regional Economic Partnership (MadREP) in the Madison, Wisconsin region.

5. The Made in the Mid-South Manufacturing Alliance led by the Greater Memphis Chamber spanning five counties in surrounding Memphis, Tennessee.

6. The Greater Peoria Economic Development Council leading a five county region in central Illinois.

7. The Minnesota Medical Manufacturing Partnership led by GREATER MSP in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

8. The South Central Idaho Region led by the Region IV Development Association in Twin Falls, Idaho.

9. The Utah Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Initiative led by the University of Utah in the Wasatch Front region.

10. The Pacific Northwest Partnership Region, led by Business Oregon in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

11. The Connecticut Advanced Manufacturing Communities Region, an eight county area centered on Hartford, Connecticut, is led by the State of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development.

12. The Central Valley AgPlus Food and Beverage Manufacturing Consortium led by California State University in Fresno, California.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).