Morton Community Bank has an electronic sign board as you drive into Morton which celebrates individual birthdays, makes community announcements, and often displays a list of local businesses that are celebrating anniversaries. It is amazing the number of small businesses in Tazewell County and how they thrive from generation to generation. Small business is the economic engine for most communities and counties—and our area is no exception.
Nationally, the Small Business Administration estimates there are 28 million small businesses across the country—representing 99.7 percent of all U.S. firms. In addition, 23 million of these firms have no employees at all, such as individual tax preparers, cosmetologists, attorneys and farmers. The standard definition of a small business is an independently owned and operated company that is limited in size and in revenue depending on the industry. It is difficult to imagine that multinationals like Caterpillar, State Farm or Walmart were once considered small businesses, but they were.
In this column, I would like to focus on two small businesses—one new and one old, both of which call Tazewell home. The first, KMI Kriegsman Warehouses, was established 105 years ago in Pekin by P.J. Kriegsman. It began serving local businesses in 1913 by delivering goods from the railroad stations to individual entities around town. Horses, wagons and heavy manual labor were the primary means of moving product.
Adapting to changing markets, KMI moved into warehousing, packaging and shipping in the late 1940s. The company has had offices in Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia, and at one time handled half of all Caterpillar executive moves worldwide. Additionally, Kriegsman is one of only five Foreign Trade Zone operators in the Peoria area.
The third generation of the family now runs the company. According to Rich Kriegsman, company president, “We can attribute our long-term success to a great group of advisors, strong relationships and our family values.”
PAL Health Technologies is the other small business I would like to highlight. PAL is a new company located in Pekin Industrial Park which arose from a similar company at the same location. PAL plans on rebuilding its position as a leading supplier of corrective foot and ankle devices, including orthoses, braces and shoes.
PAL reopened in April of this year with new owners Aaron Rossi, MD, and Gerald Paul, DPM. The owners are combining their medical skills with their business acumen to create a truly novel high-tech company. They can use computerized 3D scans of a patient’s foot to create an orthotic that is completely unique to that person, with a much faster turnaround time. As the business grows, they continue to hire more people and in turn make our local economy even stronger.
In addition to these two local businesses, I think about two other “small” companies in Tazewell County that are now significant players in their respective markets. Both Precision Planting and AutonomouStuff started small and now have footprints that are both national and international.
We need to acknowledge and celebrate these local businesses, their accomplishments, and what they bring to our communities. In addition to their core services, they employ Tazewell residents and spur our economy. Finally, we also appreciate Morton Community Bank—a large “small business”—for celebrating the other small businesses around us. iBi