Strengthening the Metal Manufacturing Cluster Throughout the Region
The Chicago Metro Metal Consortium is one of twelve "Investing in Manufacturing Communities" named by the U.S. Department of Commerce in June 2014. The Consortium helps metal manufacturing firms within northeastern Illinois grow through collaboration, networking, market research and awareness. In just over one year, the CMMC has built a network of an impressive number of committed partners in education, transportation, government, manufacturing and various other agencies.
The Cook County Bureau of Economic Development leads the CMMC in collaboration with the City of Chicago and the six collar counties: McHenry, Lake, Kane, DuPage, Kendall and Will.
Jennifer Ptak, program manager of Cook County Bureau of Economic Development, tells us more.
Q: What are CMMC's top initiatives and its strategies to achieve them?
A: Currently, we're focusing on growing our private sector reach. We're looking to target the 3,700 metal manufacturing firms in the Chicagoland area. As of right now, about 100 firms have participated in a CMMC-sponsored event.
Alongside our focus to grow, the top three initiatives the Consortium is currently pursuing are:
Workforce Development — Our partners work with regional high school and community college students to get them excited about careers in manufacturing.
Increase Exports — We partner with Metro Chicago Exports to provide learning opportunities and reduce costs to enter international markets through a microgrant program, with a focus on firms in the fabricated metals and heavy machinery sectors.
Innovation — We are exploring ways to work with existing small to medium size metal manufacturing firms to help them improve, expand and grow.
We also have planned initiatives to improve the regional supply chain, identify and support transportation and infrastructure projects, and improve business operations and sustainability.
Q: Can you highlight a few partners and why these partnerships are so valuable to the Consortium?
A: As of right now the CMMC has over 45 partners, which is fantastic! We leverage their expertise and take advantage of their resources to support metal manufacturing firms.
A few notable partnerships include:
Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC) — IMEC works with firms to identify growth opportunities. The CMMC is working closely with IMEC to expand services for metal manufacturing firms, including a business assessment and benchmarking tool.
Chicago Metro Area Transportation Departments & Agencies — The CMMC partners with multiple transportation departments and agencies to help prioritize transportation investments that support the metal manufacturing cluster. We want firms to have ready access to suppliers and customers, utilizing the region's robust rail, road, and air transportation network.
Maker Labs and Innovation Spaces — These spaces are important because they support entrepreneurs and new manufacturing firms, as well as strengthen workforce development, which positively impacts the future of metal manufacturing.
Q: Can you name an Elk Grove business that recently participated in a CMMC opportunity?
A: Yes, Warren Young of ACME Industries recently participated in a roundtable discussion with six to seven manufacturing CEOs in the region. This is a great example of how the CMMC develops opportunities for manufacturing firms to weigh in on issues together and be more involved in making a difference.
This year, we'll be attending the Made In Elk Grove Manufacturing & Technology Expo. Elk Grove has one of the highest concentrations in metal manufacturing in the region, so we're definitely interested in being more in touch with Elk Grove-based companies.
Q: What was the overall feedback of IMEC's Manufacturing Matchmaking* event that CMMC co-hosted last December?
A: We've heard fantastic things from participating manufacturers (which included 30-40 firms). It's very well organized, and it's a great way to meet potential customers and suppliers. The best way to describe it is that it's a lot like speed dating, but for manufacturers.
The proximity to other metal-manufacturing firms in the region is a huge asset. The Manufacturing Matchmaking event takes advantage of this and allows manufacturers to meet and greet their neighbors, who hold invaluable resources. Co-hosting the event aligns with one of the CMMC's biggest objectives: to strengthen the metal manufacturing cluster by making connections and building relationships between neighboring manufacturing firms.