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June 10, 2005


PEORIA - Continuing to promote entrepreneurship and innovation in the North Central region, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today delivered $1.2 million in Opportunity Returns funding to help launch the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center, a high-tech business incubator designed to support technology innovation, convert innovative ideas into market successes and fuel economic growth and job creation throughout the area. The State of Illinois is the biggest investor in Peoria NEXT with the Governor committing a total of $4.5 million for the project. Joined by other state and local officials, Gov. Blagojevich discussed his support today during a ceremony in Peoria.

"Opportunity Returns is about investing in the region’s competitive advantages and unleashing its economic potential. I cannot think of a better example of that strategy at work than the public-private partnership that is launching Peoria NEXT. This area is generating a groundswell of cutting edge research and advanced technology that has enormous potential to act as a dynamic engine of economic growth and job creation. By supporting Peoria NEXT, we’re bringing some of the region’s most promising talent together under one roof and backing it with the resources and services needed to develop innovative, young businesses into market successes, fueling more vigorous economic growth throughout the area," Gov. Blagojevich said.

Caterpillar, the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, Bradley University, the Peoria region’s medical community and the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research invest more than $1 billion annually in the North Central region on basic and applied research. The results of this research are often underutilized for lack of a marketable product or are developed by companies outside the region. Through Opportunity Returns, the state is partnering with Caterpillar, Methodist Medical Center, Bradley University and the U.S. Economic Development Administration to build a state-of-the-art, high-tech business incubator that will foster the development of that research and facilitate the commercialization of new technologies.

The 38,000 square foot incubator will help create, attract and nurture young companies, taking advantage of local expertise in nanotechnology, bio-science, health care, agricultural products and other technologies. Regional leaders cited the incubator as their top priority. It is expected to accommodate up to 25 firms and create more than 200 jobs in three years and up to 1,200 jobs over the next eight years as these companies grow.

"Peoria NEXT is a key that can unlock the vast economic potential of this region. By supporting this initiative, Gov. Blagojevich is making one of the most meaningful investments in the local economy and demonstrating a real commitment to the region and its people," State Senator George Shadid (D-Pekin) said.

The project site for Peoria NEXT is also in a medical technology district, which the City of Peoria has designated for high-tech business development. The Peoria NEXT Innovation Center initiative is being managed by the Economic Development Council for Central Illinois, a company of The Heartland Partnership.

"This high-tech incubator is a critical part of Peoria’s strategy to diversify its local economy by adding 21st Century economy jobs, while retaining and strengthening its manufacturing base. By providing this funding to Peoria NEXT, Gov. Blagojevich continues to show that he’s determined to make the kinds of investments that are most important to the region’s economic vitality and which have the greatest capacity to create more genuine economic opportunity for its people," DCEO Director Jack Lavin said.

Gov. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns regional economic development strategy is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs in Illinois’ history. Since a one-size-fits-all approach to economic development just doesn’t work, the Governor has divided the state into 10 regions – each with a regional team that is empowered and expected to rapidly respond to opportunities and challenges. Opportunity Returns is about tangible, specific actions to make each region more accessible, more marketable, more entrepreneurial and more attractive to businesses. It is about upgrading the skills of the local workforce, increasing the access to capital, opening new markets, improving infrastructure, and creating and retaining jobs. Opportunity Returns is about successfully partnering with companies and communities, both large and small, to help all of Illinois reach its economic potential.


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