The Agtech Advantage – Central Illinois Technology Triangle
Posted On 10/15/2019 By admin
To counter the economic stagnation, population loss and slow decline of much of Central Illinois, a solution is forming branding umbrella to promote the combined assets of Peoria, Springfield, Decatur, Champaign, Bloomington and the many peripheral and in between cities. A provisional name is the Central Illinois Technology Triangle. This strength in numbers would help the region to better compete with Indianapolis and Nashville, not work against each other as the current economic development silos are doing. A strong regional brand would enable it to position itself for the future and attract more investment nationally and globally.
The region has significant innovation, research, development and high tech industry, ranging from startups to large manufacturers. In fact, it has a long history of research, invention and innovation. The University of Illinois Research Park in Champaign is noteworthy for its size and variety of entrepreneurs, but other research centers are scattered around the region. Also, Central Illinois has an outstanding transportation infrastructure of highway and rail networks, great airports, Decatur’s Midwest Inland Port with direct rail service direct to Pacific and Atlantic ports and two international air cargo ports of entry. There are also excellent universities, community colleges, foreign trade zones, Springfield’s Mid-Illinois Medical District and other comprehensive medical facilities, advanced agribusiness, great tourism infrastructure, plentiful water supplies and other business resources strategically located in the Heartland of America.
None of the Triangle’s major cities are far from each other. Combined with the many nearby smaller communities they have a population of well over one million and resemble a highly dispersed, polycentric medium-sized city since their suburban reaches meet. Much land remains in between for development. Commuters often travel between the Triangle’s many cities for their jobs, recreation, shopping and medical care.
The Triangle would not show preferences for any community. Its function would be similar to that of a convention and visitors bureau for the entire region. It has been commented that calling this geographic area as a technology hub is an exaggeration since much of it is planted in corn, soybeans and other crops. The reality is that agriculture has become a high tech industry because of big data, smart technology, digital applications, robotics, biotechnology, etc. A uniqueness of Central Illinois that makes it stand out among other technology regions is having some of the world’s largest clusters of advanced agtech research and high tech agribusiness. The region’s highly developed agtech resources are not being maximized. Agtech combined with various other technologies collectively form a substantive technology region.
An organizational and promotional umbrella for the Central Illinois Technology Triangle could be a university, economic development group, chamber of commerce, business, coalition of businesses or a foundation. It would supplement, not replace existing economic development entities. While many private and public sector leaders have expressed an interest in the Triangle, no group has offered the staff and money needed to make it a viable organization.
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Lothar is the President and CEO of ZG Worldwide: Software & Subject Matter Experts, Business Consultants. Previously he was Marketing Manager for the Illinois Department ofTransportation Amtrak system, aviation planner, public transportation planner and encyclopedia writer. He holds an MBA from the University of Illinois at Springfield and a Master of Social Sciences (Geography and Urban & Regional Planning) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The book Business Adviser’s Consulting & Coaching was written by him.
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