Chicago Metro Metal Consortium Page

The Community

The Chicago metro region has long been considered one of the nation’s top metal manufacturing regions. With more than 3,700 firms in the region representing a combined $30 billion of annual revenues supporting this cluster, along with 100,000 people working in the region, the industry is poised to further grow and strengthen the regional economy. In particular, the region will build off its strengths in transportation – with six Class 1 railroads, seven interstate highways, and the second busiest international
cargo airport – and in workforce development, the result of an existing efforts by twelve regional community colleges in the Illinois Network for Advanced Manufacturing.

The Vision

The region’s more than 3,700 firms in the metals industry and supply chains employ more than 100,000 people and generate more than $30 billion in revenues. Building on the region’s metal base, transportation network, and workforce development partnerships, the Consortium proposes integrated investments across six key pillars which will create a virtuous cycle of development in the region.

The Strategy

Workforce and Training: Over the last several years, the Region’s public workforce system, community colleges, employers, and training institutions have formed a network and are refocused on manufacturing in response to renewed industry growth and increased demand for skilled workers. Twelve regional Illinois Network for Advanced Manufacturing (“INAM”) community colleges are expanding the network’s ability to prepare manufacturing workers with an industry-recognized certificates or associates degree. The colleges’ work includes developing a “learn and earn” model that connects students directly to jobs. The Consortium plans to expand upon this existing collaboration and better integrate it with other regional workforce efforts. 

Supplier Network: Metal manufacturers are often situated in more than one supply chain. The Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center has the proven ability to complete complex supply chain mapping to identify gaps and undertake efforts to strengthen the Chicago region supply chain. In particular, the Consortium plans to assess whether a metals specific industrial park could better connect its diverse supply chain. In addition, the Consortium will work with regional manufacturing alliances to raise the capabilities of small manufactures up to the global cutting edge.

Research and Innovation: The Chicago Metals Region is one of only four regions nationwide that have at least two national labs, and its strong network of research universities conducts over $2 billion a year in science and engineering R&D. The Consortium has identified research transfer as an area where, despite recent improvements, other states still outperform Illinois. A key partner in the Consortium and recent manufacturing innovation institute winner, UI Labs will help the Consortium identify “open innovation” strategies metal manufacturing and facilitate the adoption of applied research. 

Infrastructure and Site Development: CMAP, the region’s planning agency, has identified opportunities to leverage the region’s 354 brownfields sites for manufacturing. Planned investments in transportation infrastructure, guided by GO TO 2040, Chicago’s first comprehensive regional plan in more than 100 years, will reduce traffic congestion and accelerate the region’s connections. Congestion today costs the region $7.3 billion a year. Each of the proposed projects in the GO TO 2040 directly benefits manufacturers. 

Trade and International Investment: Metals and machinery are the largest exports from Chicago, but too few small and medium sized manufacturers export. World Business Council’s Chicagoland Trade Accelerator will act as a front door for small- and medium sized metal enterprises to access the support services needed to increase exports. 

Operational Improvement and Capital Access: Two existing institutions and Consortium members – the Alliance for Illinois Manufacturing (“AIM”) and IMEC– will work with metal manufacturers to assess business operational capability and identify key areas for improvement. Sustainability efforts will be coordinated by the Cook County Department of Environmental Control (“CCDEC”) with participation from Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (“ISTC”) and Elevate Energy (“EE”). Consortium Member, the AIM and its sister organization, the North Business and Industrial Council (“NORBIC”) will provide counsel to manufacturers regarding access to capital, business development, and equity and debt financing through the Illinois Small Business Development Center (“ISBDC”) at NORBIC.

The Partnership

Local Governments: Counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will Counties; Cities of Chicago and Joliet 

Higher Education Institution: University of Illinois (UI) 

Private Sector: Funk Linko 

Private Member Organizations: Alliance for Illinois Manufacturing (“AIM”) 

Public Private Partnerships: Choose DuPage, Lake County Partners, World Business Chicago (WBC) ;Illinois U.S. Commerce NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership Center: Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC); National Network for Manufacturing Innovation; UI Labs 

Regional Planning Agency: Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (“CMAP”); State; Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development 

Workforce Agencies and Training Colleges: Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (“CCWP”); DuPage Workforce Board, Harper College, Illinois Network for Advanced Manufacturing (“INAM”), McHenry County Workforce Net Board, Will County Workforce Investment Board