MSA: Peoria, IL
Best places ranking: #5 among midsize metro areas
The last time we wrote about Peoria, investors had pledged nearly $2 billion toward renewable energy ventures, and city officials were launching government-funded programs to help foster green growth.
Since then, Peoria's small business sector has boomed -- even during the bad economy. More than 100 businesses have graduated from startup mode this year in industries like agriculture, medical device development, and the support-services sector, which includes HR and IT companies. Fueling the growth was a recent mass exodus from Caterpillar, the city's largest employer, which offered voluntary buyouts to dozens of middle managers in January.
Lured to the city by its affordable housing and comparatively cheap commercial real estate -- lab space goes for about $18 a square foot in Peoria vs. $45 in Chicago or St. Louis, both a three hours' drive from Peoria -- entrepreneurs can leverage a vast network of startup assistance. Half a dozen organizations, such as the Heartland Partnership and economic development centers at Bradley University, help small companies access capital. The city has seen an uptick in new angel investment groups. Glen Barton, former chairman of Caterpillar, recently launched a network of 25 high-net-worth individuals looking to invest in Peoria-based high-tech businesses. -Maggie Overfelt
Resources for getting started in Peoria, IL
Local startup resources
Peoria Business Statistics
"Besides offering a good quality of life, Peoria has a fairly close-knit community that's accepting of new folks and new ideas. In the past 10 years, the town has gone a long way to help attract people to this region. " -Sri Deivasigamani