Tag: Manufacturing

Vibrant custom furniture, cabinetry, and artwork by Geodesic Designs

Operating in Bucktown near the Elston Avenue Industrial Corridor, Geodesic Designs produces custom furniture, cabinetry, and public artwork for Chicago’s residential and commercial community. 

Owner and founder Keith Skogstrom has extensive experience in woodworking, carpentry, and design with an expertise in developing his clients’ ideas and desires into polished pieces and installations.

Some of Geodesic Designs’ high-profile projects include the build out for the new Grainger offices in the Merchandise Mart, the mural at Stanley’s Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, the façade of the Violet Hour, a cocktail bar in Wicker Park (see below right)––which he did twice––and a mural for the River Shannon on Armitage, an Irish pub in Lincoln Park.

Keith also fabricated the German and Brazilian exhibits for the Chicago Architectural Biennial in 2019.

Recently, WTTW Chicago interviewed Keith and featured Geodesic Designs in a segment on Chicago Tonight.  

Throughout the pandemic, Geodesic Designs has seen strong demand for custom furniture and artwork. The business has experienced success due its location in the Elston Avenue Industrial Corridor where it is surrounded by compatible land uses. 

Unfortunately, one threat to the company’s operations is the continued rezoning of nearby industrial property to residential and commercial uses. For example, Keith used to purchase materials locally from Elston Metal Tanks; because this company closed, he has to drive to suburban Addison to buy these essential products.

Manufacturing districts add great value to businesses by creating local supply chains and circulating local dollars through an area multiple times.

Like North Branch Works, Keith is a passionate advocate for maintaining properties zoned for manufacturing along the North Branch of the Chicago River.

North Branch Works members can support Geodesic Designs by placing orders and joining collective advocacy opportunities to protect land zoned for manufacturing and industrial uses. 

We’re honored to welcome Keith and Geodesic Designs to North Branch Works as a new member business and highly recommend working with him and his team. North Branch Works is excited to support the company’s continued growth and success. 

Please visit his website and follow Geodesic Designs on Facebook and Instagram.

With questions and to network with Keith, please contact him at 937-215-4106 or geodesicdesignsks@gmail.com.

Image credits: Geodesic Designs

 

Ravinia Brewing opens new taproom in Logan Square

A family-friendly establishment, Ravinia Brewing’s new taproom recently opened in Logan Square, adding an incredible destination where you can enjoy innovative craft beers and freshly made Mexican street fare.

Located at 2601 W. Diversey Avenue in between the Green Exchange and the Kennedy Expressway, the much-anticipated opening comes two years after the business began brewing beer on this site.

A relative newcomer to the thriving craft beer scene, Ravinia Brewing began distribution in 2017, growing out of the Ravinia District in Highland Park where the company opened its first location, an award-winning taproom and taco bar.

The menu at the new taproom features a variety of mouth-watering Mexican street food such as hand-pressed tortillas and tacos (see below left) along with breakfast burritos, bowls, salads, and dynamic vegetarian options.

And the beer selection is an amazing compliment to the food offerings. Some of the available beers include the Diversey Station, a session pale ale, and small-batch limited releases such as the Isle of Hops, a hazy IPA, and Casa de Guava, a Berliner Weisse.

The new taproom has a creative floorplan with window swings, intimate booths, bar service, and retractable garage doors. The design reflects Ravinia Brewing’s strong commitment to protecting the health and safety of its customers as well as its three core pillars of “Community, Craft, and Creation.”

If you visit the taproom, you can take comfort knowing the company is following strict COVID-19 protocols including requiring masks, social distancing, and providing hand sanitizer.

The new space also includes Chicago history as the bar dates back to a pre-Prohibition establishment located at Diversey Avenue and Halsted Street.

And you can escape behind the taproom to a hidden beer garden decorated with string lights and barrels. The garden offers plenty of room to enjoy late night entertainment and host private events.

Getting to Ravinia Brewing’s new location is relatively easy via public transportation as you can hop on the CTA’s #76 Diversey Bus, which will drop you off in front of the taproom. And the brewpub is within walking distance for most residents of Avondale and Logan Square.

For people driving, it’s easy to get to the taproom from the Kennedy Expressway. There’s a small private parking lot on the south side of Diversey Avenue just east of the business and street parking nearby.

Currently, the new brewpub is open: Tuesday through Thursday from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

North Branch Works members and supporters can help Ravinia Brewing Company by visiting the taproom frequently. You can also purchase beer to go in person.

Please follow Ravinia Brewing on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Sign up for the latest news and specials here.

We’re thrilled to welcome Ravinia Brewing Company to the neighborhood and look forward to supporting the company’s continued success and growth.

With questions and to connect with Ravinia Brewing, please contact: info@raviniabrewing.com

Image credits: Ravinia Brewing Company

 

 

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

The Alley Chicago celebrates its 45th year anniversary in June

After developing an interest in business as a high school student at Holy Name Cathedral, Mark Thomas launched the Alley Chicago, an iconic family-owned business that served Lakeview for over forty years at Belmont Avenue and Clark Street.

Last year, the business moved to Avondale and is now located at 2620 W. Fletcher Street (pictured above). A retail and manufacturing operation, the Alley Chicago designs and sells counter-culture leather, footwear, jewelry, belt buckles, and t-shirts.

It’s well-known for its vast collection of Goth, Punk, Metal, Motorcycle, and Chicago merchandise. The business also carries a wide variety of products so it’s a great place to look for and purchase items—especially as we look for opportunities to support small businesses during the pandemic.

On June 6, 2021, the Alley Chicago will celebrate its 45th anniversary in business. Stay tuned for more details about how you can celebrate this remarkable achievement.

The Alley Chicago prides itself on being a safe and accepting environment for people of all backgrounds and lifestyle orientations. Recently, the business sponsored a transgender and gender fluid fashion show at Water Tower Place.

And while many of its customers experienced being judged by society for being different, they reported feeling welcomed, accepted, and valued at the Alley Chicago.

Over the course of its history, the business has employed 3,000 people in good jobs where they learned essential skills like how to manage the store, make purchasing decisions, and evaluate inventory. Encouraging entrepreneurship has always been an important goal of the owner, Mark Thomas.

Indeed, seeing about three hundred employees return to the business unexpectedly during a store closing in 2016 and learning many of them had started their own businesses is a development that Thomas considers to be one of his greatest achievements.

Currently, the business has a staff of ten people due to a major part of its business shifting to online sales.

In addition to serving as an attractive neighborhood destination, the business supports the artist community by providing approximately one hundred and twenty loft studio work spaces via its sister business, the Art Colony.

The Alley Chicago is currently open and following all of the COVID-19 protocols including mask-wearing, social distancing, and providing hand sanitizer.

North Branch Works members and supporters can help the Alley Chicago by visiting regularly. You can also pick up the latest merchandise from its online store.

Please follow the business on Twitter and Facebook.

We’re excited to work with the Alley Chicago and businesses in the thriving Belmont Avenue/Rockwell Street district to ensure the area remains a great place to work and do business.

North Branch Works is pleased to welcome the business as a new member. With questions and to connect with the Alley Chicago, please reach out to Mark Thomas, mark@thealley.com

Workforce training opportunity for manufacturers in North Branch South

Building the skills of your workforce is a great way to grow your business and position it for success as the pandemic winds down.

And if you are a manufacturer or manufacturing-related business in the North Branch South TIF District, here’s a great opportunity for you.

The City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development and the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC) are offering expert-led virtual trainings at no cost to small manufacturers and manufacturing-related businesses with forty or less full-time employees.

Designed by IMEC experts, the available trainings cover a wide variety of topics, including safety, leadership, process improvements, maintenance fundamentals, and strategy in a post-COVID-19 market.

The goal of these sessions is to help manufacturers upskill and retool their workforce, improve productivity and safety practices, and understand when and how to shift business strategy.

The trainings range from eight to twenty-two hours; individual sessions generally last no more than two hours. Participants who complete the trainings will receive a certificate.

Please keep in mind the North Branch South TIF District is limited to twenty-eight participants for the fully-funded trainings. We recommend signing up sooner rather than later.

North Branch Works is proud to partner with IMEC and the Chicago Department of Planning and Development on this initiative and encourages our eligible member businesses to participate.

To learn more about the trainings and to register, please go here.

With questions about the program, please contact Michelle Fossett at IMEC, 815-275-0159, mfossett@imec.org.

Image credits: Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center

Howe Corporation preserving our food supply chain

Seeing a need for innovation in the refrigeration industry, William Henry Howe founded Howe Corporation in Chicago in 1912, designing equipment that popularized the use of “artificial ice.”

Today, Howe Corporation is a fourth generation, woman-owned business that manufactures and sells refrigeration equipment at its facility located at 1650 N. Elston Avenue. The company produces approximately 1,000 units in a typical year; they range in daily ice production from 1,000 to 20,000 lbs.

Along with being highly productive, these machines are environmentally sustainable, a core value of Howe Corporation. With proper maintenance, the company’s ice flaker machines (see below right) can last over 10 years in the retail supermarket and over 20 years in the industrial food processing market.

Energy Star recognized Howe Corporation’s commitment to the environment, presenting the company with a 2019 Excellence in Design Award and Partner of the Year Award for 2020 & 2021. Many of the company’s ice flaker machines have been Energy Star certified.

It’s ideal to use flake ice to preserve food because it has the most surface area contact of any form of ice and provides the greatest cooling capacity. Flake ice easily molds around the product to cool even more efficiently.

Customers use #HoweIce to preserve food along every step in the supply chain from field to table and sea to plate. And having a safe and reliable food supply chain has been incredibly important during the pandemic.

Howe Corporation prides itself on providing high quality customer service and has built many long-term relationships with clients, some of whom have been customers for over thirty years. With export offices in Costa Rica and Mexico, the company is well-known in Latin America.

Some of Howe Corporation’s high-profile clients include Whole Foods, Panera Bread, Wegmans, Concool, and the Seattle Fish Company. And you can find Howe’s machines in over fifty of the top one-hundred supermarket chains in the U.S. and over 100 countries globally.

The company’s product line includes ice flaker machines, condensing units, ice storage bins, filtration systems and accessories. Howe Corporation is a great example of how manufacturing continues to thrive in Chicago and has pivoted from large companies to mid-size and smaller firms.

Currently, Howe Corporation employs a workforce of thirty people in high quality jobs–many of which do not require an advanced degree. And by participating in the City of Chicago’s TIF 50/50 pilot program last year, Howe Corporation was able to hire during the pandemic as well as upgrade the skills of its incumbent workers.

The company’s strong commitment to the Chicago region is reflected in its support of area organizations. In addition to being a member of North Branch Works, the President of Howe Corporation serves as the Board Chair for Jane Adams Resource Corporation (JARC), a provider of high-quality skills training and support services to low-income and unemployed Chicagoans.

Howe Corporation is WBE certified and obtained its Women-Owned Small Business certification (WOSB) from the federal government. This designation will help the company continue to break down barriers within the refrigeration and cooling industry, apply for federal contracts, and connect with other businesses seeking to diversify their supply chains.

Please support Howe Corporation by following and liking the company on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

To connect with Howe Corporation, please reach out to: howeinfo@howecorp.com

Image credits: Howe Corporation

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

SYNLawn of Chicago joins North Branch Works

For over ten years, SYNLawn of Chicago has improved quality of life by supplying and installing a variety of high-quality products such as synthetic turf, green walls, rubber surfacing, and sports tiles.

An affiliate of AstroTurf, the company launched in 2010 due to the emergence of a commercial and residential market for artificial turf. We’re fortunate to have this neighborhood business in the North Branch as it is the licensed distributor of SYNLawn products to Illinois.

Located at 2632 W. Barry Avenue (pictured above), SYNLawn has twenty-five synthetic grass products in its showroom that can solve many challenging livability issues. And if you visit in person, you can rest assured the company is following strict COVID-19 protocols such as requiring face masks and social distancing.

Installing synthetic grass in your home or office creates many benefits including reduced energy costs as well as saving time and energy on lawn maintenance.

SYNLawn’s talented and experienced staff can help you design and carry out improvement projects such as roof-decks, dog parks, landscaping, and putting greens. Along with improving quality of life at home and/or for your employees, investing in amenities like roof-decks increases property values.

To help people enjoy the many health benefits of living in green spaces, the company sells artificial green walls (pictured below), which are designed for people who desire this experience and might not be able to invest the time and energy into maintaining a natural one. Many of SYNLawn’s green walls appear in offices and hospitality businesses throughout Chicago.

SYNLawn also offers rubber surfacing products that minimize injuries from falls and accidents. This product line is ideal for playgrounds, athletic arenas, courts, and city parks.

And thanks to its production of sports tiles, the business can design and build projects such as indoor and outdoor basketball courts. Each tile is slip-proof, tailored to fit the exact space, and tough enough to survive the most extreme weather conditions.

SYNLawn cares deeply about Chicago neighborhoods and its fellow small businesses in the North Branch. During the pandemic last summer, the company partnered with local restaurants, helping them get through the worst of it by creating attractive green spaces for outdoor dining.

North Branch Works is proud to welcome SYNLawn of Chicago as one of our newest members. The company’s entire product line is manufactured in the United States; working with SYNLawn is a great way to support manufacturing and living-wage employment.

Currently, SYNLawn is offering free project estimates and would love to network with fellow North Branch Works members. And if you are a member, the company will provide you with discounted pricing.

To connect with SYNLawn, please contact Leo Alunan, Sales and Operations Manager, 773-857-5296 (Ext. 651), lalunan@synlawn.com

To request a free estimate, please go here.

Image credits: SYNLawn of Chicago