Distillery Labs Names First Executive Director
Paul Leamon, experienced entrepreneur, investor and technologist to lead state-of-the-art entrepreneurship hub
Distillery Labs has named Paul Leamon as the organization’s first Executive Director. Distillery Labs, a technology and innovation center downtown Peoria, Illinois, is expected to open in 2021.
Leamon, who has an extensive background as an entrepreneur, investor, corporate innovator and technology leader, will take the reins on January 4, 2021, and will be charged with building, launching, and leading the world-class technology incubation facility.
“I’m honored to be chosen to lead Distillery Labs,” said Leamon. “I am excited about the possibilities as we set out to build a thriving, vibrant center for the community that can have an impact on Peoria for generations to come. I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and start working with all of the entrepreneurs, partners, corporations and organizations in Greater Peoria. Together, we are going to build an organization that will become an institution in Peoria and will create opportunity throughout our region.”
Leamon has a nearly 30-year career in entrepreneurship and technology. He has served as the founder of multiple technology startups and venture capital / entrepreneurship networks, including V.DEV, Juiced Ventures, and Wellfount. He has previously served as the chair of the entrepreneurship committee at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business, and is a limited partner with a venture capital firm.
Leamon has worked for corporations in technology development and innovation and also has extensive fundraising experience.
“OSF HealthCare has been part of a group driving Distillery Labs’ development, and we now need a strong and experienced leader to take this visionary center from concept to reality,” said Bob Sehring, CEO of OSF HealthCare and chairman of the Distillery Labs board. “We’re excited and confident to welcome Paul Leamon to lead Distillery Labs as its first Executive Director. Our board members and partners look forward to the important work he will take on.”
Distillery Labs, which will be funded through a $10 million grant that is part of the larger Illinois Innovation Network, will be located at the Thomas Building, a 50,000 square foot facility formerly occupied by Illinois Central College. Distillery Labs will ultimately be a tech, innovation and incubation community designed to foster opportunity throughout the Greater Peoria region. It will have classes, workshops, public-private partnerships, student opportunities, and more.
“I have been impressed with Paul as a candidate and as a leader,” said Dr. Sheila Quirk-Bailey, President of Illinois Central College and a member of the Distillery Labs board. “I was impressed with all of the candidates who came through our extensive search process, and we saw a diverse and vibrant slate of candidates. I am excited to work with Paul and the entire community as we launch Distillery Labs in 2021. Together we will do great things for the entire region and all of its people.”
Leamon’s charge as Executive Director of Distillery Labs will include:
- Leading the process to design, build and launch the 50,000 square foot facility by the end of 2021.
- Building out a team and staff for Distillery Labs, with a focus on developing a diverse, vibrant, inclusive organization that is representative of the entire region.
- Attracting and populating the Distillery Labs space with members and partners, including startups / entrepreneurs, university partners, corporations, venture capitalists/angel investors/other technology investors, non-profit organizations (such as the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council), and members of the community.
- Fundraising and corporate development -- particularly seeking and obtaining corporate partnerships that will fuel the growth of Distillery Labs, and building a robust strategy to seek and obtain grant funding for the organization.
- Developing and extending the virtual reach of Distillery Labs so that people from throughout Greater Peoria have access to the programming, resources and innovation that will come from the facility.
- Building, expanding and driving a diversity and inclusion strategy for the Labs that ensures that in every fashion the Labs are both representative of the community and a leader in driving opportunity for everyone.
Leamon was chosen after an extensive search process, which involved interviews by a committee of stakeholders, including entrepreneurs, business leaders, public officials, and the Distillery Labs board. The committee considered a diverse and extensive slate of candidates, with a particular focus on ensuring that many different profiles of potential leaders were represented. Leamon was chosen because of his broad experience across all the elements of the Distillery Labs position.
“On behalf of the entrepreneurial community in Peoria, I’m excited to welcome Paul to our ecosystem and am looking forward to working with him to create more opportunities for startup founders, investors, and entrepreneurs,” said Jake Hamann, Founder and Executive Director of the Peoria Innovation Alliance. Peoria Innovation Alliance is working with Distillery Labs to craft a partnership agreement through which the two organizations will cooperate on key initiatives in the entrepreneurship and technology space.
“Hearing the voices of and creating opportunities for entrepreneurs from every walk of life is absolutely critical to the future of Greater Peoria’s economy. We have a real opportunity to work together to build a set of resources, tools, institutions and programs that will establish Peoria as a leader in this space for years. I am excited at the potential for Peoria Innovation Alliance to partner with Distillery Labs in achieving this goal.”
In Leamon’s free time, you’ll find him enjoying home remodeling projects and cross-country camping trips with his family. Paul’s wife, Cheryl, is an executive in the financial services industry and his two boys are students, the oldest in college studying Informatics and the youngest in high school. Together, just about anything outdoors factors prominently into their family life, from golfing and tennis to kayaking and sailing.
Leamon will start with Distillery Labs officially on January 4, 2021. However, in celebration of the winter holidays, he’ll be appearing on “Whiskey Talks,” Distillery Labs’ very successful interview program, on the evening of January 7. Paul will be interviewed and will also be taking questions from the general public in that event. To learn more, visit www.DistilleryLabs.org.
Distillery Labs is expected to open in 2021, and will be a 50,000 square foot technology and innovation center in the heart of Peoria. The Peoria Innovation Hub, launched in 2019, is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to supporting the development and operation of Distillery Labs.