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Q&A: How Peoria BioMade's new executive director plans to attract biotechnology companies to the River City

Large-scale Biomanufacturing facility, Windsor, Nova Scotia (2 x 17,000 L Fermentors)
Ryan Tobin
(Photo: Business Wire)
Large-scale Biomanufacturing facility, Windsor, Nova Scotia (2 x 17,000 L Fermentors)

Vivian Standifird is the first executive director of Peoria BioMade. Her mission: to attract and expand the biomanufacturing and biotechnology industries in the Peoria area.

Standifird comes from a financial and administrative background, previously working with a medical device company before moving to Peoria.

Standifird recently spoke with Tim Shelley about how she plans to use that expertise to attract business to the River City:

VIVIAN STANDIFIRD: In short, our goal at Peoria BioMade is to make Peoria the next biomedical manufacturing hub.

Vivian Standifird

Statistically, the biomedical industry is projected to be a trillion dollar industry by 2030. And we want a piece of that pie. Right? I'm not from here, but everybody knows the story, that we've always been a manufacturing hub, right? We were mass producing penicillin back in the 1940s. And we have a giant manufacturing company, Caterpillar, here.

And now if you look, we have an amazing healthcare scene going on with OSF, you know, the Jump Trading Center, and you know, UnityPoint, as well. And so, you know, we ought to take advantage of what we have now and build upon that, all the special things that we have here, and take a piece of that pie. So that's what we're gonna do.

TIM SHELLEY: So tell me a little bit about what kind of possibilities there might be for Peoria with the medical hub here in the community. What might you hope to build or bring to the city?

VIVIAN STANDIFIRD: Yeah. So first of all, when you bring a new industry in town or you make it a biomech hub, you're naturally going to bring a lot of jobs, and to create those jobs. There's going to be special education programs and whatnot. So it really is a really big picture of bringing in the right people to teach a class, and then you create a class of people with educated in that field. And then you're also going to bring probably money in here, money either from, you know, grant money that is invested here, or indirectly from your tax credits and things like that, to elevate tax burden that you can reinvest in something else.

So, and I think it'll be really fun if we can also attract a lot of more startup companies, people like Natural Fiber Welding kind of companies, where this is a great place for them to grow and prosper. And then you have new faces, you have new people, new ideas. It will become a diverse community. And I think that's awesome.

TIM SHELLEY: So I'm thinking of like Jake Becraft's company, like the type of startup, we're talking about maybe bringing the Peoria. Not his company, specifically, but things like that.

VIVIAN STANDIFIRD: Soon we'll be looking for something like that. And I think it'll be great in the future, if we can attract his type of company, and even more.

And also, if an existing established company who's looking to have a branch, or manufacturing space, that is, you know, separate from their expensive property in a big metropolitan (area), we will be absolutely great choice as well, right? And so, so I think we ought to not limit ourselves to, you know, just startups. I think startup is a great group, because what they bring, the uniqueness (of what) they do, but I think we have opportunity in both.

TIM SHELLEY: I know you're just starting on the job. But I would just ask, what's your vision or dream of this? You know, a few years down the road? What's this look like?

VIVIAN STANDIFIRD: To be very honest with you, I think it will be great to have a few quick wins in the in the first few years, and I'm optimistic about making it happen. Because (of) what I just mentioned, about all the resources is already available here.

But it does take time. I would hope to see that there is a very good structure for bringing in new ideas. There's a very supportive system for growing, specifically in the biomedical manufacturing industry. There is solid logistic support that is going to attract the kind of company who's looking to have a company, you know, to look at Peoria to have competitive advantages. I think that's maybe what I would love, is that the core things that a company would consider to pick a site we already have, have it built. So then it's about continued effort of advertising and bringing them bringing them and building on it.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.