Innovation is a popular word these days…

Everyone strives for their community to be driven from an innovative spirit. But innovation is not a switch one can turn on. It is deeply rooted in who you are, what drives you and your vision for the future. It is with that understanding, although maybe not obvious or well known to the ‘outside’ world, or in fact maybe not even recognized in our own backyard, that innovation sets Peoria apart.

Duryea Motor Trap Exhibit   , Peoria Riverfront Museum

Duryea Motor Trap Exhibit, Peoria Riverfront Museum

Innovation isn't a concept new to Peoria. The Duryea automobile, the mass production of penicillin and "The Feminist Mystique" authored by Peoria High grad Betty Friedan are all well-known products of Peoria. But we haven't capitalized on that heritage.

We live in a time when innovation may be the most powerful force on the planet. It's also a time when technology moves at breakneck speed, sometimes making it hard to keep up with the changes we encounter on a daily basis.

The Peoria Innovation Alliance embraces these changes, but at the same time, looks to boost the Greater Peoria economy while restoring confidence and drive to an area that has been a national leader in the past, whether we're talking about distilling, manufacturing, or even basketball.

Dr. Luke Haverhals -   Natural Fiber Welding   Photo from Fred Zwick, Peoria Journal Star

Dr. Luke Haverhals - Natural Fiber Welding
Photo from Fred Zwick, Peoria Journal Star

The narrative of our region needs to change. We can't dwell on where the Caterpillar headquarters is located or the state of the Illinois economy. We can't ignore taxation and pension challenges but we do need to re-establish the Greater Peoria area as a community where hard work, new ideas and a genuine concern for others can and will make a difference.

So, why is that important?

Just look across the country where tech hubs are sprouting like cell towers. You see cities like Omaha, Nebraska, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa being cited in the same breath as Silicon Valley, Austin and Boston. Even the billionaire founder of AOL, Steve Case, is taking to the road on a bus to highlight activity happening in areas similar to ours through his Rise of the Rest tour. At each of his thirty eight stops, Case has awarded $100,000 to a deserving startup in each city, but more importantly his presence brings attention to all the amazing activity happening in places that have typically been forgotten or ignored when it comes to great ideas.

If you care about this city, you have to invest in startups.
— Steve Case, Founder of AOL / Revolution / Rise of the Rest

It’s with that inspiration that the Peoria area must take advantage of and capitalize on assets and industry expertise already here: healthcare, agriculture, eCommerce (Bump Boxes), sustainable goods (Natural Fiber Welding) and autonomous mobility (AutonomouStuff). Our goal is not to rubber-stamp what's already been accomplished but to create new opportunities and then tout our successes to those both inside and outside the community.

And if you’re thinking the idea of promoting innovation sounds like an appeal only to science fair winners and math whizzes, think again. We're talking about a united effort involving creativity and collaboration on every front--from the coffee shop to the schoolroom to the board room.

So whether you are an entrepreneur, investor, current business owner or simply a citizen of the region that sees, understands, and wants to help drive Greater Peoria to be a region that we have been before and can be in the future, the choice to change the narrative is up to you.

Peoria has had its pity party. It's time to get to work.