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Distillery Institute Appoints New Executive Director

Distillery Institute Appoints New Executive Director


Distillery Labs has appointed MBA Doug Cruitt as its new Executive Director. This technology and innovation center he founded in 2020 as part of the larger Illinois Innovation Network.

Mr. Kruitt comes to the Distillery Institute as a Founding Principal of RIVR Strategic Coaching, a specialized strategic consulting and coaching firm specializing in entrepreneurship, leadership, self-improvement and strategic support to help others grow, mentor and succeed. He has also served as a mentor for Distillery Labs, the University of Illinois iVenture Accelerator program, and a board member of his leadership school for the Peoria Chamber of Commerce community, and throughout his career he has founded over 15 startups and helped others launch and scale.

My role as Executive Director of Distillery Labs sits at the intersection of my three greatest passions (outside my family): community, entrepreneurship, and positively impacting the lives of others. It is truly an honor to be given the opportunity to help build and lead the Distillery Institute. “I look forward to stepping into this role of serving and supporting entrepreneurs across the region,” said Kruitt.

Kruitt replaces the organization’s first Executive Director, Paul Leamon, who remains a consultant to Greater Peoria Economic Development Council (GPEDC) CEO Chris Cetti, who will serve as Interim Director of the Distillery Research Institute from April 2022.

Search was pretty awesome. We had a great committee of community stakeholders from the fields of economic development and entrepreneurship, Cetti explained. What makes Doug stand out is that he has a very interesting background working in corporate organizations as well as in more entrepreneurial ventures. He has mentored several of our startups and is passionate about leadership research and teaching. And in addition to being the leader of the distillery research institute, this job also puts me in a position of community leadership.

Bob Sailing, CEO of OSF HealthCare and Chairman of the Board of the Distillery Research Institute, said he is enormously grateful to Chris Cetti and the GPEDC Board for allowing Chris to step in and lead the Distillery Research Institute over the past 15 months. A strong foundation has been laid and we are thrilled to welcome Doug as Executive Director. We look forward to him further expanding the already welcoming entrepreneurial and innovative spirit that exists throughout the Peoria metropolitan community. Under his leadership, we know that the already established community and relationships with his partners will continue to grow, ideas and new concepts will thrive, making the field even more attractive to companies looking to recruit forward-thinking and top talent.

Funded by a $10 million grant that is part of the larger Illinois Innovation Network, the distillery lab is located in the Thomas Building on Adams Street in downtown Peoria. The building is a 50,000-square-foot facility that was once occupied by Illinois Central College. Construction of the space will begin in late August. A ceremony to celebrate the start of construction will be held on Thursday 17th August at 10am at the distillery lab at 201 Adams Street, South Wales, Peoria.

Distillery Labs will ultimately become a community of technology, innovation and incubation aimed at fostering opportunities throughout the greater Peoria region. Classes, workshops, public-private partnerships, student opportunities and more will be held.

Kruitt, who will assume his new role on July 31, is excited about the opportunities and possibilities that lie ahead.

Building a strong startup community and entrepreneurial ecosystem is not a linear process whose growth and evolution can be accurately predicted. The entire ecosystem will come in many shapes and sizes in the coming years, decades and beyond. I believe that our ecosystem, at any point in time, is only a small part of the future ecosystem. And it should get people excited. See all the resources currently offered in our region to support entrepreneurs. Let’s take a look at the startup success stories of the past few years and the startup success stories that are happening now. Kruit said he wanted to take note of the momentum building across the region, thanks to initiatives like Choose Greater Peoria. See how much our neighborhood contributes to the community through helping nonprofits. See the pride and love most people have for this place they call home. Look at the Midwestern work ethic and the resilience of its people. Take a step back and look at all these things and realize that this is only a small part of what we will someday become. How excited would that be? Now think about what our region will look like when we are globally recognized as a hub for entrepreneurs to start and grow companies, drive innovation and drive economic growth.

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