Tag: High quality jobs

KOVAL Distillery opens new tasting room and patio

Last week, KOVAL Distillery announced the opening of its much-anticipated tasting room and patio.

These modern spaces offer a dynamic experience for craft spirit enthusiasts, adding to KOVAL’s incredible lineup of tours, classes, events, and store.

Located inside KOVAL’s distillery at 4241 N. Ravenswood Avenue, the tasting room (pictured above) reflects a combination of the co-founders’ Central European heritage and partnerships with Chicago-area makers.

The menu features a mix of classic cocktails and imaginative originals such as KOVAL Bourbon, Dry Gin, liqueurs, fruit brandies, and limited edition releases.

KOVAL only uses the “heart cut of the distillate,” making its products stand out due their clean taste.

Along with cocktails, a variety of perfect pairs (KOVAL spirits combined with bite-sized treats), flights, light food, and international coffee drinks will be available. To see a full menu, please go here.

The opening of KOVAL’s tasting room (see bar below right) is another major accomplishment for the business whose co-founders, Dr. Robert Birnecker and Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart, overcame significant hurdles when starting the company in 2008.

KOVAL is a great example of how manufacturing has pivoted from large companies to smaller neighborhood businesses that provide high-quality jobs without requiring advanced degrees.

The company’s continued growth and success highlights the valuable role that manufacturing plays in Chicago. It’s timely that KOVAL’s tasting room and patio opened during Manufacturing Month.

North Branch Works is proud to advocate for policies and programs that strengthen local manufacturers like KOVAL.

Our members and supporters can help KOVAL by visiting the new tasting room, suggesting venues carry KOVAL products if they don’t already, and purchasing its products.

To participate in on-site activities, KOVAL requires all visitors to be vaccinated and masked.

KOVAL’s tasting room is open Tuesday-Friday from 5-10 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday from 12-10 p.m. The adjoining patio (see below) will be open for seating as long as the Chicago weather allows.

To learn more about KOVAL Distillery and its co-founders, please see this member profile.

North Branch Works would like to recognize Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart for her dedicated service on our Board of Directors.

With questions and to connect with KOVAL, please reach out to: info@koval-distillery.com

Image credits: KOVAL Distillery

Ozinga building a sustainable future

A fourth-generation, family-owned American company, Ozinga serves the entire spectrum of customers—from small residential homeowners to large cities with public works projects.

Founded in 1928 in Chicago’s Evergreen Park neighborhood, the company initially started as a small coal and coke yard. After surviving the Great Depression and World War II, Ozinga pivoted to supplying building materials, setting it on course to play a major role in the Chicago region’s vibrant growth.

Today, Ozinga is a premier supplier of sustainable concrete, bulk materials, and logistics and energy solutions to builders in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, and South Florida.

The company runs a sophisticated operation in Chicago from its regional headquarters in Chinatown (see below right). Well-known for its red and white concrete mixer trucks (pictured above), Ozinga employees monitor and support each truck in real time to ensure a safe and on-time delivery.

In order for the concrete mix to be viable for a project, each truck must deliver the product to the job site within an hour.

Currently, Ozinga Chicago employs three-hundred people in high-quality, head-of-household jobs.

Having industrial companies like Ozinga located in Chicago creates many benefits for the city, including the ability to build essential infrastructure and development projects quickly, high-quality jobs that do not require advanced degrees, and significant contributions to the city’s general revenue fund.

Some of Ozinga’s high-profile projects include supplying the concrete for renovations at Wrigley Field (see below left), Comiskey Park, Soldier Field, and the reconstruction of the Dan Ryan Expressway, which required 250,000 cubic yards of concrete.

Ozinga’s vast product offerings include a variety of limestone, gravel, concrete, recycled concrete, sand, and topsoil—all designed to meet the specific needs of its clients. With seventy company locations and two hundred source locations, there’s really no limit on what you can accomplish with Ozinga.

The company also helps clients finish their projects on time and budget by transporting these products through an extensive network of truck, rail, barge, and ship terminals.

By delivering materials to its locations via its fleet of barges, Ozinga keeps seventy trucks off the road with each barge shipment.

And for large projects that require a high volume of concrete, Ozinga can build a portable location called Ozinga On-Site that protects the environment by eliminating transportation costs and using less energy.

The company also specializes in portable crushing, which keeps concrete and asphalt out of our landfills, reduces costs for their clients, and allows them to reuse materials.

Indeed, these are just a few of the ways that Ozinga embodies its core value of protecting the Earth and its natural resources.

North Branch Works is proud to have a strong partnership with Ozinga and grateful for the company’s longtime financial support.

Our vision for Chicago includes ensuring that we protect land zoned for industrial use so that companies like Ozinga can make valuable contributions to the city over the long-term.

We would like to thank Marty IV and Paul Ozinga for their dedicated years of service on our Board of Directors.

North Branch Works would also like to recognize Chad Herst, Vice President and General Manager, for his current service on NBW’s Board of Directors.

With questions and to network with Ozinga, please reach out to: info@ozinga.com

Image credits: Ozinga 

Rezoning of 1838 N. Elston highlights need for city plan for industrial land

Last week, the Chicago Plan Commission approved the rezoning of the former Wagner Foundry site at 1838 N. Elston Avenue from heavy manufacturing to a residential business planned development.

North Branch Works opposed this zoning change because it would break up a block of properties zoned for manufacturing, which is incredibly valuable and supports equitable neighborhoods.

Our letter to the Chicago Plan Commission highlights these points and others.

Having available land for industrial use positions the city to recruit new companies that provide high-quality family-sustaining jobs without requiring advanced degrees.

1838 N. Elston is in the heart of our service area where many industrial businesses are thriving. These companies include SIPI Metals, Howe Corporation, O’Brien Metal, and Chicago Roof Deck and Garden.

The Elston Avenue Industrial Corridor has experienced great success because businesses could plan for and rely upon compatible surrounding land uses.

It’s easy to see this zoning change as one land parcel. But we’ve already seen an alarming trend of the reduction of industrial land along the North Branch. At the same time, the industrial real estate market is booming.

We want to see Chicago take advantage of this market by attracting new industrial companies and high-quality jobs to our area. And to see that growth we have to preserve the remaining land zoned for industrial use along the North Branch.

One of Chicago’s greatest strengths is a diversified economy that helps the city  thrive during good times and survive any major economic downturns.

Industrial companies play a major role in strengthening Chicago’s economy by carrying out essential work and employing people in head-of-household jobs. Continuing to reduce industrial land on the North Side will harm Chicago’s economy.

For these reasons, North Branch Works sees an urgent need to develop a citywide plan for preserving industrial land so that decision-makers like the Chicago Plan Commission can consider any proposed conversion of industrial land within the context of the city as a whole.

We call on the Chicago Plan Commission and Chicago Department of Planning and Development to lead this effort and stand ready to help them with research and on-the-ground knowledge of our service area.

MxD building the capacity of American manufacturers

Arising from an awareness the U.S. federal government needed to strengthen American manufacturing, MxD successfully obtained a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to create a manufacturing institute in Chicago in 2014.

Prior to this grant opportunity, Illinois faced a vexing problem: many of its high-caliber engineering and science graduates left the state after graduation due to a lack of attractive career opportunities.

To address this challenge, a group of motivated stakeholders including leaders from area universities, private industry, the City of Chicago and State of Illinois, and economic development groups banded together to catalog the region’s many strengths, including manufacturing and computer science, and put together a multisector strategy to better leverage these assets.

Because of this strong foundation, when former President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology recommended creating a nationwide network of manufacturing institutes, MxD (known then as UI LABS) quickly presented a strong application. The organization’s proposal won initial grants totaling $80 million from the U.S. Department of Defense and received support from the City of Chicago and State of Illinois to convert a former windows and doors factory into its innovation center.

Today, MxD is a woman-led, membership-based manufacturing institute that occupies a state-of-the-art facility on Goose Island (1415 N. Cherry St.) with a 22,000 square-foot shop floor (see below right). MxD is the second of 16 manufacturing institutes created by the federal government across the country.

Birds-eye view of the factory floor at the MxD Innovation facility.

Some of MxD’s high-profile members include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Siemens, John Deere, Microsoft, Lockheed Martin, and AT&T.

Over the course of its seven-year history, MxD has facilitated public-private partnerships that have invested more than $120 million in 85 different projects. In addition, MxD employs approximately forty people in high-quality jobs.

Recently, MxD launched a Supplier Diversity Procurement Program that allows companies to identify as a diverse supplier, giving them an advantage in applying for projects. If your company is a diverse supplier, you can register here at no cost.

Along with a strong commitment to supplier diversity, MxD is especially proud to have a Board of Directors that is majority women. This stands out in the manufacturing sector, which is typically two-thirds men and one-third women.

A major issue that MxD helps manufacturers address is cybersecurity. It’s a high priority for MxD because a malicious attack can cost your company thousands in damages and reverberate throughout the supply chain. Learn more about the steps you can take to protect your company or consider how you might advance your own career in cybersecurity.

Joining MxD as a member is a great way to grow your network, position your company to participate in new public-private projects, and improve the efficiency and safety of your manufacturing systems.

MxD has a wealth of resources and a valuable network that supports small and mid-sized manufacturers. Some of the company’s resources range from free webinars to members-only content as well as knowledge from different sectors that can help companies address problems.

And the good news is that annual rate for Tier 3 members is only $500. To inquire about joining MxD as a member, please reach out to: membership@mxdusa.org.

North Branch Works is proud to partner with MxD to attract manufacturers and grow manufacturing jobs. These positions are high-quality jobs that pay family-sustaining wages without requiring advanced degrees and ultimately support a more equitable Chicago region.

To see a dynamic video feature of MxD, please join us for North Branch Works’ Spring Fundraiser on May 20th.

North Branch Works would also like to recognize Bill Hurley from MxD for his dedicated service on our Board of Directors.

With questions and to connect with MxD, please email: info@mxdusa.org

Image credits: MxD

Sign up for North Branch Works’ Spring Fundraiser on May 20th

Here’s your chance to support neighborhood businesses, high-quality jobs, and the North Branch of the Chicago River as a great place to work and do business.

Please register for our virtual Spring Fundraiser on May 20th at 6:30 p.m. Our entertaining, one-hour program on Zoom will feature dynamic local businesses including:

  • MxD, a woman-led, membership-based manufacturing institute on Goose Island that does incredible work building the capacity and security of American manufacturers.
  • Essanay Studio and Lighting, a company that helps clients shoot high-quality commercials and movies by supplying world-class studios and equipment.
  • A live interview with Anne Bigane Wilson, President of Bigane Paving.
  • Calihan Catering, a family-owned multi-generational catering and events business on Goose Island.

And we’ll learn about current projects and future plans for the area from Ald. Walter Burnett (27th Ward) and Ald. Michele Smith (43rd Ward).

Along the way, we’ll enjoy a beer tasting with Revolution Brewing’s Josh Deth as well as snacks from Calihan Catering.*

Our Spring Fundraiser will be an hour of fun and entertainment. We hope you can join us. Thank you for supporting businesses, high-quality jobs, and sustainable economic development in Chicago.

The suggested minimum donation is $25. To purchase a ticket, please go here.

* If you live in the Chicago region, our staff will deliver beer and snacks to you in advance of the event.

With questions, please contact Steve Simmons, 773-929-5552 x2226, steve@northbranchworks.org


Property zoned manufacturing holds great value

As an advocate for high-quality jobs and manufacturing, North Branch Works frequently reviews and weighs in on zoning change proposals in the eight wards that make up our service area.

Recently, we’ve seen an increase in requests to change properties zoned manufacturing to allow for other uses, including residential. And that’s problematic because the purpose of Chicago’s zoning code is to keep compatible land uses together.

As a general practice, North Branch Works supports maintaining properties zoned manufacturing so there are opportunities to attract new companies with jobs that pay family-sustaining wages without requiring advanced degrees.

Using land for manufacturing is community-friendly and creates many benefits including strengthening economic development, increasing revenue for the City of Chicago, and providing high-quality jobs that support equitable and diverse neighborhoods.

Our member businesses have worked hard for many years to create thriving business districts throughout our service area such as Rockwell Street south of Belmont Avenue and on Goose Island. It’s dangerous to entertain changing zoning when it would break up a block of properties zoned for manufacturing and open the door for more proposals that would further mix land uses.

And we know that once manufacturing leaves an area, it’s nearly impossible to bring it back. That’s a major reason Planned Manufacturing Districts (PMDs) were created throughout Chicago. PMDs are designated areas where zoning laws prohibit residential development and other specific uses; they provide safe spaces for businesses to operate without nearby conflicting land uses.

In cases where property owners are struggling to attract a business, North Branch Works sees it as our mission to work with owners and Members of City Council to recruit a company that complies with the current zoning.

And we’re excited to join the Chicagoland Manufacturing Renaissance Council and its members to promote and protect manufacturing businesses and jobs.

In short, we see properties zoned manufacturing as presenting valuable opportunities to attract new businesses with high-quality neighborhood jobs and strengthen economic development.

With questions/comments about zoning and/or for help with business attraction, please contact Steve Simmons, 773-929-5552 x2226, steve@northbranchworks.org

Image credit: Chicagoland Manufacturing Renaissance Council