PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Natural Fiber Welding (NFW), a Peoria-based manufacturer specializing in plant-based products to replace plastics, secured a round of investments worth $85 million total.

NFW President Steve Zika said the money will be used to scale up the company, creating jobs in Central Illinois.

“We are continuing to hire aggressively, and of course, almost all those jobs are here in Central Illinois,” he said. “For me, as a Peoria native, it’s great to be able to see this growing here in Peoria.”

Zika said the company’s Series B round of investments is a big milestone for the company, and further advances its mission to create materials in a circular economy.

“85 is actually a little larger round than we had originally proposed, but there was great demand in the market,” Zika said. “The demand is great right now because everybody, I think, is looking for a new alternative, a new sustainable material that can displace their plastics.”

Zika attributes that demand to the growing awareness of the dangers and environmental hazards plastics can pose.

“I think there’s a lot of fatigue in the market for polyester and polyurethane and these synthetic plastics. There’s becoming an increasing awareness in the general public about how bad these materials are for our environment and for us,” he said.

According to Zika, “Nature is the original circular economy.” meaning that when something is taken from nature, it can be returned safely to nature.

The new funding will increase capacity at NFW’s Galena Road and Jefferson Street locations. Zika said they are also eyeing property on Pioneer Parkway in Peoria.

 “So scale means increasing the manufacturing, increasing our capacity to make more materials, get more of those materials in the hands of more and more customers. It also is allowing us to develop some new materials that will be coming to the market soon… all with the idea of using natural materials, plants, not plastics,” he said.

NFW is already known for its MIRUM and CLARUS products, and Zika said they are working on materials that can be used in footwear manufacturing.

“There will be new materials coming to market this year that look at the rest of the shoe. And those types of materials can be used in other applications as well,” he said.

Global partners include Evolution VC Partners, Tattarang, Lewis & Clark Ventures, Ralph Lauren Corporation, Central Illinois Angels, and more.