fbpx skip to Main Content

Annual Report

Copy of edt_MG_8968

Chris Setti
Chief Executive Officer

A note from our CEO

The Greater Peoria EDC, in collaboration with our community and business partners, drives economic growth in Greater Peoria through targeted business and talent development and attraction.

When I read the mission statement of Greater Peoria EDC, I always focus on the part between the commas: “in collaboration with our community and business partners.” I love that section because it speaks to the very heart of what we do — collaborate with others in our region to make us all better.  In reflecting on 2019, I recognize that it was not just a successful year for the EDC, but a great year for the region.  We all worked together to realize strong outcomes that benefited us all.  From the award of a large grant to support the workforce development efforts of Illinois Central College to our work to market the region to rest of the world, the sections of this 2019 annual report demonstrate how the resources provided by our investor members are making a difference.  And while you will see pictures of the EDC staff in each section, know that behind each of them is a great network of partners helping them have those successes.  My thanks to all of our investor members for supporting not only Greater Peoria EDC but the region as a whole.


Community Partner of the Year

On August 27th, the GPEDC was named Community Partner of the Year by the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship at Bradley University. We are honored and grateful to be recognized as an organization that strives to make a positive impact in the community.

The Big Table Greater Peoria

On October 15th, over 700 community members convened at the Peoria Civic Center for The Big Table: Greater Peoria. As anyone that attended could tell you, there was a great feeling of positivity and excitement throughout the day. The Big Table is a day of regional community building through conversations designed to strengthen and connect communities. The discussions from this event have continued and we look forward to continuing our work on the Big Table with the CEO Council, Enjoy Peoria, and a number of local chambers of commerce.

Federal Bank Of Chicago President Visits Greater Peoria

On October 16th, the Greater Peoria EDC was honored to host President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Charles Evans. The event included a presentation by President Evans on the state of our economy, as well as a Q&A session with community members. Evans also discussed the role of the Federal Reserve and the factors and metrics they use in making decisions.

EDA Grant for ICC

Illinois Central College (ICC) announced that they are the recipients of a $3 million grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA). These funds will be used for the development of ICC’s Workforce Sustainability Center. This grant will be matched by $6 million of local and state funds. This facility will house workspace and classrooms designed to train students to address Greater Peoria’s current and emerging workforce needs in some key industries, including: HVAC, solar panel installation, geothermal energy , truck driver training, highway construction, machinist training, computer- aided drafting, machinist training, and other high-demand career programs.

Distillery Labs Launches

The Peoria Innovation Hub (now known as Distillery Labs) launched as part of the Illinois Innovation Network, a group of public universities and community colleges that work together to improve the state’s economy through innovation, research, and education. OSF HealthCare, the University of Illinois System, Illinois Central College, and the GPEDC are all working together to help develop the hub.

Governor JB Pritzker, joined by several local leaders, officially launched the iniaitive in early November at the its future site at the Thomas Building in downtown Peoria.

Brent Baker
Director of Workforce Solutions

Workforce Solutions

Developing a more resilient, robust, and equitable talent pipeline in Greater Peoria.

Over the last five years our region has made incredible progress in establishing a shared understanding of the systematic changes necessary to build a 21st century talent pipeline. This work is not exclusively focused on a single demographic of our community, rather the GPEDC supports the development of strategies aimed at empowering individuals from cradle to career, from K-12, to recent college graduates, and career-seeking adults. Along with numerous incredible community partners, Greater Peoria is well ahead of the curve on workforce development and there’s no slowing down.

Our work is aligning to new college and career readiness expectations from the State of Illinois, this includes implementing new career pathways frameworks, expanding Early College access, and creating more opportunities for students to gain real work experience. The largest piece of our career pathways work is CareerSpark, our regional 8th grade career expo, co-hosted by the GPEDC and Junior Achievement of Central Illinois.

We’ve also continued expanding our talent attraction and retention efforts focused on recent graduates, Peoria expats, and career-changing adults through targeted events and marketing. We are also engaging both recruiters and jobseekers though our revamped Talent Connection initiative.


CareerSpark reaches 4,700 students

In 2019, we grew CareerSpark to engage 4,700 students from 72 unique schools, hailing from nine counties; in three short years, CareerSpark has impacted 12,000 students, introducing them to our region’s most needed careers.

Inaugural GP Homecoming Mixer

In partnership with the Peoria CVB, CEO Council, Peoria Area Chamber, and Peoria Innovation Alliance, this event was aimed at reengaging with Peoria expats who were back in town visiting family and friends over Thanksgiving. Marketing for the event was seen by over 100,000 people. Over 100 people attend this first homecoming mixer, with around 30 of those attendees being from outside our region or state.

College and Career Pathways strategy

We increased Early College offerings and enrollment at participating pathways districts, along with supporting placement of over 175 students in internships and other professional learning opportunities between four school districts. Most excitingly, this has led to the emergence of scalable, regional healthcare and manufacturing high school internship models that will be a focus of our ongoing work.

2020 Objectives

  • Expanding College and Career Pathways Endorsements, Early College, and professional learning to new school districts.
  • Growing CareerSpark eighth grade career expo and piloting a high school component of the event.
  • Implementing a collaborative, external talent attraction marketing campaign in aspirational cities
Sally Hanley Headshot

Sally Hanley
Director of Business Assistance

Business Assistance

Coordinating regional outreach and providing assistance to existing companies to foster, sustainability, resilience, growth, and retention.

A business’s growth or loss impacts more than just the community in which it is located . It impacts the regional supply chain, workforce and community services.  Work with experts and stakeholders from the public and private sectors to identify appropriate strategies to support sustainable and robust economic growth.  

Greater Peoria EDC programs such as Elevate GP, Foreign Trade Zone #114, GP Manufacturing Network and IL Defense Industry Network provide businesses with resources to ensure resilience and growth.

With a yearly goal of 100 business visits, we aim to help regional companies formulate their best possible plans of action to grow, innovate, and overcome obstacles. 

Along with this strategy of company engagement, we also work to help develop the regional resources and incentives to maximize success for these companies. This includes work on EDA grants, Enterprise Zones, and revolving loan funds, all of which help foster an environment where regional companies are supported to continue growing in Greater Peoria. 


Peoria Urban Enterprise Zone Amendment

IL DCEO APPROVES PUEZ Amendment #6 compiled and submitted by GPEDC.  The amendment authorized a boundary expansion to include additional property.  These properties have immediate, mid and long term development opportunities and potential. PUEZ incentives include primarily building materials sales tax exemption and up to 5 years property tax abatement by participating taxing bodies for the improvements. After the 5 years, the development improvements are then taxed. An example of an immediate development is Kellar Station on the added Knoxville property.  The development is anticipated to cost $7.4M and generate 520 jobs.

Illinois Defense Network

The Illinois Defense Network (IDN) brings together stakeholders from industry, government, and academia to strengthen Illinois’ defense resilience. With its active DoD installations and diverse industrial base, Illinois has strong links to the military and the companies and people that support it. The Greater Peoria region along with Rockford, Quad Cities and Chicago regions are collaborating under IDN to foster adjustments and resiliency as the defense industry changes.  As a subgrantee, the Greater Peoria region has used the funds to enhance the work to build out and seek business development opportunities for the Greater Peoria Manufacturing Network. Additionally, we have hired two IL DIN Program Managers experienced in procurement, military, manufacturing and supply chains. 

100 Business Visits

The Greater Peoria region’s data was aggregated with the state of Illinois again under the CORE Illinois 2018-19 Report.  Workforce remains the number one challenge for businesses.  Worker recruitment problems are industry specific with skilled production labor and technical/scientific predominant. There was an increase in companies expanding primarily with advanced machinery and equipment. Most were growing while the next strongest percentage was maturing.  Many had or planned to introduce new products and/or services, although they lacked their own R&D.  Majority experienced increased sales and markets.

2020 Objectives

  • Identify and begin conducting up to 100 ElevateGP visits with CEO Council, IL DCEO, and local stakeholders.
  • Research and explore Designated Zone Organization under IL Enterprise Zone Act.Reinvestigate pro/cons and steps to changing to FTZ #114 to Alternative Site Framework.
  • Help the GPEDC Grant Consultant administer Woodford County and Tazewell County multiple grant awards to reuse each one’s  CDBG RLF Refund Closeout funds.
  • IL DIN Program Managers continue to provide direct assistance to 20 GPMN members and up to 20 other regional defense companies.
  • Prepare a competitive Greater Peoria Region  application under the new $25M OEA funding for the DMCSP that will support many of AMCC’s member communities and partners.

Lenora Fisher
Director of Business Attraction

Business Attraction

Aggressively marketing the GP Region to decision makers and business leaders around the world by communicating our business strengths, equipping locals to champion the region’s assets, and facilitating a business environment that is attractive to new, large employers.

A key opportunity for attracting investment to the region is to raise awareness of the region’s assets and business strengths. There is room to improve the local, national, and international knowledge of all that Greater Peoria has to offer.

With that understanding, we have begun to document and market the assets and strengths on which to build. We will articulate the resources we need and want. And collectively, we will work together to accomplish those goals. As we publish, build relationships and raise awareness, there are 3 target audiences for communicating our efforts.

Our first audiences identified were the gatekeepers who advise companies on location decisions including Site Selectors, Consulates, and decision makers around the world. This outreach occurred through networking events in Chicago, targeted trips to direct flight destinations, business attraction trips through contracted organizations and online outreach efforts.

The second primary audience identified are local stakeholders and business leaders. The more local people are engaged, informing and in the know about the assets we have, the more people will be singing our praises and the more attractive our region will be. These efforts began in 2019 through local stakeholder meetings, participation in the Business Champion Group and Big Table Efforts, and storytelling efforts about local companies.

Our third primary audience for Business Attraction efforts are Peoria area alumni who have fond memories of the community through parents, teachers, alumni associations and more. This audience matters to business attraction because they have ties to the area and new networks to leverage for building relationships with the area. We began cultivating this audience through the Peoria Area Homecoming Event and LinkedIn networking. We will continue developing communication strategies with this group.

These efforts alongside prompt submissions to site searches through Intersect Illinois, TBIC and personal networks will help us continue positioning ourselves as a quality region for investment.


Relationships with Foreign Countries

Between the Chris’ attendance at the Midwest US Japan Association conference in Tokyo, Japan Foundation trip to Japan, several meetings with the consulate and JETRO in Chicago and continued correspondence with a company Chris and I met in Kyoto, this relationship has strong potential for Foreign Direct Investment in the future and will continue to evolve with time and cultivation.

Data Hub Content Improvements

Working with our marketing team, we began outlining and building content to International Economic Development Data standards. These are reflected in the GPEDC website and DataHub industry pages. We continue to map where we are and build the platform around which we’ll develop a strategy moving forward.

Audience Research and Familiarity

To understand our target audiences and begin creating content relevant to them, we attended site selection and foreign direct investment conferences to inform our communication efforts going forward.

2020 Objectives

  • Continued build out of web resources including mapping existing industries, targeted messaging for new industries, Foreign Direct Investment resources, and more.
  • Developing segmented communication lists, a calendar, and outreach plan to connect with target audiences throughout the year.
  • Site selection outreach through conferences, location outreach, and recruiting trips.
  • Peoria Alumni Cultivation through outreach, Peoria Area Homecoming efforts, and an alumni recognition program.
Andrew Ngui_Half

Andrew Ngui
Director of Innovation and Startups

Innovation & Startups

Curating, nurturing, and growing a community of innovators, entrepreneurs and makers focused on building profitable businesses in the Greater Peoria region.

Greater Peoria is an innovation hub in the Central Illinois region. It is the quintessential all-American city because of its representative demographics and mainstream culture. Resultantly, it is one of the country’s leading test markets for new products, services and experiences.

Immersed on meeting the market’s burgeoning needs, the region’s startups respond by creating innovative solutions to underserved and new market segments. Entrepreneurs validate assumptions with customers locally and scale up through strategic partnerships across the United States and around the world.

These value-added solutions create wealth and economic growth that ripples outward across the region; to its investors through gains and dividends, to service providers through new lines of business, and to employees through the jobs created.

Building on Peoria’s unique identity, startups and small businesses contribute significantly to a sense of place for the region. The Greater Peoria Economic Development Council is honored to serve and assist the region’s founders and owners in their business ventures.

Over the past year, the Startup Greater Peoria program has reached people in the business community at all levels, from students to mid-career professionals considering entrepreneurship as a career pathway, to business owners and others starting a new business as their second or third careers.

In 2019, we ran 2 cohorts of a small business accelerator program, a 9-week program focused on equipping small business owners with the practical knowledge on how to start and run a business. In addition to hosting a number of business and entrepreneurship meetup events at the Nest Coworking, e.g. 1 Million Cups, Javascript and Open Data Analytics, we also engaged with Bunker Labs, a veteran entrepreneurship organization, Bradley University’s Engineers in Entrepreneurship club as well as the Public Relations program in the Faculty of Communications to co-host events for veterans and women business owners respectively. Collectively, we have engaged with more than 200 founders, innovators and community members in the region and facilitated over 170 resource connections. For 2020 and beyond, we continue to engage with the business community and to support a number of them on an ongoing basis.  



Building long term relationships and connections with startup founders and business owners in the Greater Peoria area.

Continue to support professionals by establishing a safe space where they can explore entrepreneurship as a career by consulting with emerging entrepreneurs and business owners to solve challenges, re-prioritize and execute. 

Maintain and nurture relationships with the region’s stakeholders, and businesses, to support their work in new business creation and to explore new ways of solving challenges. 

Design bite sized interventions and experiments that would be able to help entrepreneurs create the mechanisms and pathways to get to the changes they wish to implement. Currently working with two startup businesses to build a team to leverage technology and new ways of working to scale their business growth. One example of this is, a short video call for experts in operations, supply chain and engineering for Bandit Ball.


Bite-sized modular system of practical learning to focus on rapidly identifying problems worth solving, uncovering market demand, and creating “painkiller” products, services and experiences.

Hands-on 60-90 minute classes/workshops where participants will create experiments to test their assumptions in the marketplace.


We are open for collaboration at the Nest Coworking. Innovators, entrepreneurs, and community organizations have an open invitation to host events in advance of the launch of the Peoria Innovation Hub. We are also working with community leaders on the implementation of an economic performance plan and the programming for the hub.

2020 Objectives

  • Nurture a community of innovators and encourage them to continue to be open and curious enough to conduct experiments to validate business assumptions.
  • Engage with startup founders to identify & manage risk inherent in the startup process by providing short 60-90 min workshops to rapidly equip entrepreneurs with practical knowledge to validate assumptions and to uncover new information.
  • Work with business owners to build scale-up teams and to facilitate the digital transformation process. 
Tory Dahlhoff headshot

Tory Dahlhoff
Director of Rural Development and Outreach

Rural Development

GPEDC works with the region’s rural and small towns to identify economic development opportunities and challenges and connect them to our programs and our numerous community and economic development partners and resources. 

Our goal is to  increase participation by the numerous communities in our five counties in regional initiatives for workforce development, entrepreneurship and innovation, business development, and  business attraction.  Additional attention is given to the agriculture community to increase on-farm diversification and innovation and develop regional agriculture supply chains, and involve our numerous agriculture stakeholders in the process of innovation and to build a more inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Through outreach and events our rural program aims to build greater partnership and collaboration simply by increasing communication and creating systems for the exchange of ideas and relationships.  Beyond creating this marketplace of ideas, this approach also helps our organization identify specific projects where we can provide technical assistance (such as grant writing services).


GP Farm Forums

Launched GP Farm Forums which collectively gathered around 300 farm and food system stakeholders to discuss opportunities for innovation and diversification.  Topics included industrial hemp, regional supply chains for specialty crops, and regenerative agriculture.

Big Table GP

Launched the Big Table GP: Rural Matters events to increase participation in the Big Table GP initiative and gain greater input toward the 2020 CEDS update.  Over 100 participants came to the first two events.

Regional Fresh Food Council

Further development of the Regional Fresh Food Council with a focus on events and research geared toward generating economic development through the local-regional food system.  Helped secure the EPA Local Foods Local Places program for two communities (Peoria Southside, Mt Pulaski), partnered on Southside market/hub demonstration, co-lead a grocery study with U of I Extension that produced the Filling the Grocery Gap in Peoria Report, and participated in numerous farm and food conferences to build our network and share our work.

2020 Objectives

  • Continue Rural Matters events through the Winter and produce reports and info to be utilized in the 2020 CEDS
  • Continue Farm Forum series with a focus on Supply Chain development for the region’s organic production
  • Complete rural and farm/food strategies for inclusion in CEDS
  • Build our rural partnerships and increase the number of rural communities participating in regional economic development initiative.
  • Provide specific technical assistance as needed
Mark Hanback

Mark Hanback
Director, GPMN

Greater Peoria Manufacturing Network

The Greater Peoria Manufacturing Network (GPMN) is organized by GPEDC to help local companies in the manufacturing space connect with opportunities to diversify and grow their business.

The network leverages the individual strengths of companies across the region to create opportunities to grow a more diverse customer base. Regional suppliers and service providers who have a diverse customer base are better able to withstand downturns in any one industry. More business also leads to investment in increased capabilities and more employees.


Marketing Efforts

GPMN continued its email marketing campaign with 25 leads delivered to sales. Future emails will focus more on deeper capabilities and case study results.

By developing Member features, we launched a successful LinkedIn campaign. LinkedIn followers have increased to 78, which is up from 13 when we started on the initiative, and posts views exceeded 500 for the month. As more content is developed, we expect to see these numbers grow at an increasing rate.

Growing the Network

We continued to grow Network by adding by adding valuable new members, including Peoria-based Cast Technologies, TWM Engineering out of Morton, and TRIGO-SCSI from Peoria.

Manufacturing & Supply Chain Forum

On August 28th, we sponsored an Illinois Defense Industry Network (IDIN) Informational Session for regional suppliers. In conjunction with partners from the Quad Cities, IMEC and PTAC, we were able to bring greater awareness to our regional suppliers on the IDIN Phase II program while also instructing them on how to enhance their readiness to work with the Federal Government and how they can participate in the effort.

2020 Objectives

  • Expand marketing efforts to new regions and industries
  • Explore defense contract opportunities with Members
  • Continue marketing the Network to select industries as well as prospective members
  • Continue exploring Member-generated leads and supply chain opportunities

Stats & Economic Indicators

Quarterly Reports

Back To Top