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Manufacturing Summit highlights potential for inclusive & sustainable communities

North Branch Works
March 30, 2022

Did you know that manufacturing makes up roughly 11% of Chicago’s GDP?  That’s just one takeaway from our Manufacturing Summit, which we held with Chicagoland Manufacturing Renaissance Council.

If you missed the virtual program, you can watch a recording of it.

Teresa Cordova, Director of the Great Cities Institute, and former chair of the Chicago Plan Commission, gave an inspiring overview of Chicago’s history as one of the most important industrial cities in the world.

The slides from Dr. Cordova’s presentation can be viewed here.

The good news is that manufacturing is poised to grow in Chicago. Currently, the city has 110,616 jobs in manufacturing.

Supporting manufacturing diversifies and grows the local economy; each job in manufacturing creates an additional 7.44 jobs. And presently, there are two job openings for every hire in the sector.

Here are some key points that emerged from our wide-ranging conversation:

  • The market for industrial land in Chicago is very competitive right now. Last year, the private market absorbed 33.7 million square feet of industrial space in the city—twice the average from the last five years. While it can be frustrating if you are a business owner looking for space, it’s an excellent overall sign for the sector.
  • We must remove the stigma in schools about pursuing a career in manufacturing and the skilled trades. Many countries such as Germany have created many pathways in to training that leads to high-quality jobs in manufacturing. We can do a better job of encouraging youth to explore career options beyond going to college.
  • Promoting manufacturing requires aligning many stakeholders including schools, workforce development training providers, advocates, city departments, economic developers, and non-traditional partners.
  • Important strategies to protect manufacturing include succession planning at family-owned manufacturing businesses, recommitting to preserving industrial land and corridors, reinvigorating industrial corridors and planned manufacturing districts, and ensuring that zoning for manufacturing exists across the city so that heavy industry is not concentrated in one area.
  • Growth in manufacturing can create a clean, green, and sustainable economic boom. The sector plays an important role in diversifying the local economy, strengthens the industrial supply chain, provides good jobs with high wages, and tackles the climate crisis.
  • If the City of Chicago were to adopt an industrial policy to support manufacturing, it should include industrial retention through industrial land preservation, strategic incentives that encourage clean energy manufacturing, the presence of manufacturing throughout the city, and incentives for the cleanup and mitigation of contaminated sites.
  • Two incentives that have worked well are the City of Chicago’s TIF 50/50 program which incentivized hiring at local companies by covering half of a new employee’s salary for six months and Cook County’s 6B tax incentive program which gives growing businesses property tax relief for twelve years, allowing them to mature.

Several of our panelists made excellent points with memorable quotes that captured the positive energy for manufacturing.

“At the end of the day, you need diverse land uses everywhere, because people shouldn’t be sent off into one part of the city to do all the manufacturing and to live there, said Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart, President of KOVAL Distillery. It should be all over the city if we are really talking about equity then you need to have all these zonings in every place. That’s how Chicago was founded.”

“If you believe inclusive manufacturing is a vehicle for promoting social inclusion and community development, then I encourage you to join the Chicagoland Manufacturing Renaissance Council,” said Erica Swinney Staley, Executive Director, Chicagoland Manufacturing Renaissance Council.

Stay tuned for more opportunities to join us and our partners in advocating for the City of Chicago to adopt an industrial policy that fosters growth in the industrial and manufacturing sectors.

Image credit: Chicagoland Manufacturing Renaissance Council

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