The metal industry in the Chicago metropolitan area stands to gain from a special U.S. Department of Commerce designation that could funnel more manufacturing dollars into the region.
The newly minted Chicago Metro Metal Consortium Manufacturing Community will be eligible for a share of $1.3 billion in federal funding for workforce development, research, infrastructure, international trade and capital access. Federal funding could support existing economic development strategies, including training workers at community colleges and mapping the local supply chain to identify gaps.
Most of the primary metals manufacturing in the Chicago metro takes place in Northwest Indiana, and South Works, Republic Steel and other South Side Chicago mills have long since closed. But the federally designated area consists only of seven counties in Northeastern Illinois.
Chicago, Cook County, the University of Illinois and more than 20 organizations and governments partnered to secure the special federal designation. None of the partners are from Northwest Indiana or the Hoosier State.
As one of the first 12 manufacturing communities, the Chicago area will get support from 11 federal agencies and an infusion of funding that is intended to accelerate the resurgence of manufacturing nationwide. The Chicago metro is a top metal manufacturing hub, with many of the firms clustered in Hegewisch and the south suburbs. More than 3,700 metal and machining firms in Chicago land generate $30 billion in annual revenue and employ 100,000 workers.
Chicago has long been a hub because of its transportation infrastructure, which includes six Class 1 railroads, seven interstate highways and the country's second busiest international cargo airport.
"The Chicago Metro Metal Consortium will build on the region's metal and transportation assets to create well-paying jobs while accelerating the resurgence of manufacturing in our area," Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle said. "This designation is the result of a remarkable partnership with local municipalities and organizations which allows us to work together to capitalize on our strategic location and strong capacity for economic growth."