Above: U.S. Representatives Darin LaHood and Cheri Bustos and the Turner Center’s Jim Foley (second from right) recognize the Minority Business Development Center as Small Business Advocate of the Year, August 2019. Photo by Jeffery Noble
“A year like no other” barely begins to describe 2020, now (thankfully) more than halfway over. Nothing is the same. There is no “normal.” Even as I write this, ten days before the end of August, a cloud of uncertainty hovers over the school year… and everything else. Too many people have lost their jobs. Too many businesses are hurting. Yet we carry on, because we must.
For the second year in a row, Peoria Magazines has partnered with the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship at Bradley University to recognize and celebrate our region’s entrepreneurs, innovators, startups, businesses and the people who support them. “We thought of not holding the event this year given all the stress and uncertainty,” says Jim Foley, director of the Turner Center. “But our advisory board felt it was important to still highlight the many local successes.”
This year’s event will be virtual, of course. It carries the tagline “Highlighting Promise During Adversity”—which barely scratches the surface of the monumental hardships that have hit small businesses in 2020. “The year starts off with a plan in place, and soon that plan is being burned to the ground,” as J.D. Dalfonso of Discover Peoria writes in this issue.
Certainly the Turner Center had different plans for 2020; instead, staff has found itself immersed in COVID-19 business relief. “To date, over 230 companies have received over 750 hours of assistance in many areas, including navigating SBA programs, the CARES Act and unemployment, and general financial assistance,” Foley explains. “It has been a really tough time for these businesses, and our staff found it rewarding to be able to help them.” They are now rolling out additional programs to support the region’s business recovery, including e-commerce assistance, cybersecurity assessments and business continuity planning, among others.
Amidst all the stress and uncertainty, there are bright spots on the horizon. Natural Fiber Welding’s recently announced partnership with Ralph Lauren, for example, is a huge development that should not fly under the radar. It’s exactly the kind of innovation the world needs—and the homegrown success story we are longing for. PS
—Jonathan Wright, Editor In Chief