Distillery Labs scheduled to open towards the end of 2021, hires new executive director

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A new leader is set to oversee Peoria’s up-and-coming downtown technology and innovation facility, which is expected to bring economic growth and jobs to the area.

Paul Leamon, from the Chicago area, is stepping into the role of leading Distillery Labs.

Chris Setti, CEO of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, said bringing Leamon on board will help kick things into high gear.

“I think he’s going to make a really dynamic leader in our community,” Chris Setti said. “Both of Distillery Labs and just in the community in general.”

Leamon said he’s had a 30-year career in technology and entrepreneurship. He said he’s anxious to learn from those in Peoria but also bring his experience to the area as well as his knowledge to the innovators of tomorrow.

“This specific position of executive director really spoke to me in a way of I’ve been through this journey before as an entrepreneur many many times,” Leamon said. “I know what it’s like and I love the advice that I can give to others and mentorship and this was a role and a way that I could achieve that.”

Leamon also said he was attracted to Distillery Labs’ vision to foster economic opportunity throughout the Greater Peoria Region.

“It’s really a community-based center for people that are excited and interested in any type of entrepreneurship or innovation endeavor,” Leamon said.

Setti said Distillery Labs has the potential to beyond expand the river city.

“We envision Distillery Labs as being the catalyst for economic growth in the region,” Setti said. “This isn’t just a city of Peoria thing this is a regional thing.”

Setti said, despite the pandemic’s interference, the process of opening the center is still moving at a decent pace.

He said they’ve been working with architect groups, such as Gensler Chicago and Farnsworth Group, and are wrapping up schematic designs. He said they hope to complete the final designs by next spring and move into the construction phase by next summer.

Leamon said the facility has the potential to change lives for those in Peoria and bring more business to the city.

“It’s growth around not just knowledge and ideas shared across a diverse community, but growth in terms of new talent and new people moving to Peoria to say ‘hey, there’s opportunity here that I didn’t realize they had before. This is a great place to start a business’,” Leamon said.

Distillery Labs will be located in Illinois Central College’s former Thomas building at 201 SW Adams St. Local business leaders said, back in the summer, the new facility is funded by a $10 million state grant.

Leamon is expected to officially start as executive director in January. Setti said they’re hoping Distillery Labs can open towards the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022.

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