President Obama is set to announce a pair of manufacturing innovation institutes in Chicago and Detroit on Tuesday. The public-private partnerships come with $140 million in federal grants, plus millions in private funding, to develop the next generation of manufacturing technologies and workers.
Back in the day, Chicago was such a huge manufacturing town, it was nicknamed “city of the big shoulders.”
But Richard Longworth with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs says the Chicago area lost 65,000 manufacturing jobs from 2006-2012. (More recent federal data puts the area’s manufacturing job loss close to 95,000 jobs over the last decade.)
“This new digital tech manufacturing center will be important,” Longworth says. “It will spin off companies, these companies will provide jobs. It does not solve the problem of the mass employment that we have lost.”
Bill King is chief technology officer for the new Digital Lab for Manufacturing in Chicago. He says in an era of cloud computing, mobile computing, and supercomputing, workers need new skills. And the center will help train them.
“There are other countries that are investing heavily in automation, data technologies for manufacturing, smart manufacturing. So this is a horse race, and this digital manufacturing institute will help us be competitive,” he says.
The initiative doesn’t stop at Chicago city limits: the center has 40 industry partners and plans to offer tools and training to schools and colleges across the country.