The Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce will share in a new $5 million U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) grant designed to help local manufacturing companies and defense contractors grow through operational excellence, innovative technology and workforce. The chamber recently announced that it is one of four Illinois Defense Manufacturing Consortium (ILDMC) community members sharing in […]
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The Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce will share in a new $5 million U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) grant designed to help local manufacturing companies and defense contractors grow through operational excellence, innovative technology and workforce. The chamber recently announced that it is one of four Illinois Defense Manufacturing Consortium (ILDMC) community members sharing in the five-year grant. The ILDMC, led by the Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Involvement at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), was awarded the grant by the DOD’s Defense Manufacturing Community Support Program. In addition to the Quad Cities Chamber, ILDMC partners include the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development represented by Chicago Metro Metals Consortium, Rockford Area Economic Development Council, Greater Peoria Economic Development Council as well as the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC). In fact, this marks the fourth DOD grant that the Illinois Defense Network partners – Quad Cities, Chicago, Peoria and Rockford – have received since 2016 to assist manufacturing companies and defense contractors. The University of Illinois Chicago first announced the grant in late September. The Voorhees Center, based in the UIC College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, will lead the ILDMC, which includes IMEC and the four regional organizations which are focused on driving growth in four key defense-intensive regions that span 23 counties in Illinois and five counties in Iowa. Each partner will receive $675,000 from the federal grant. “A resilient supply chain requires modern manufacturing that involves use of advanced technology, and advanced manufacturing requires a modern workforce,” said Julie Forsythe, the chamber’s senior vice president of Business & Economic Growth. “ILDMC will implement comprehensive workforce strategies focused on untapped and underrepresented populations to build a diverse manufacturing workforce in collaboration with stakeholders.” While work plans are still being finalized, Ms. Forsythe said the partners will collaborate to launch a Casting, Forging and Energy Storage Center of Excellence. Its goal will be to introduce new offerings, comprehensive solutions, innovative manufacturing technologies and state-of-the-art workforce training modules in order to strengthen supply chain productivity and stimulate market growth. “This grant will allow the Illinois Defense Manufacturing Consortium to develop innovative plans for boosting productivity, while also creating comprehensive programs to expand the skilled defense manufacturing talent pipeline,” said Yittayih Zelalem, Voorhees Center director. “We look forward to collaborating with Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center and our team of regional partners and economic development organizations in the Quad Cities, Rockford, Peoria and Chicago, as well as with other supporters and stakeholders.” In 2022, the Illinois Defense Network partners were joined by the Illinois Manufacturing Association, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development, America Makes and the American Manufacturing Communities Collaborative to apply for the Defense Manufacturing Community designation. That designation, awarded earlier this year, provides ILDMC with new opportunities to seek funding for efforts strengthening the nation’s defense. Of the 24 applicants that competed for funding, ILDMC was one of six to receive the grant. The federal grant is supplemented by an additional $1.6 million in non-federal funds to support the ILDMC project. The Voorhees Center also will maintain the Supply Chain Mapping Tool, an online platform it created to provide real-time data on the federal military’s manufacturing and supply chain. According to the Quad Cities Chamber, Illinois holds a valuable position in the country’s national security and readiness with manufacturing representing the single largest share of the state’s gross product. In addition, defense-related spending in 2019 amounted to $8.8 billion dollars with a value-added impact of $11.8 billion on the state economy. Over three-quarters of the state’s manufacturing is concentrated in the northern half of the state including the defense-intensive-regions of northeast Illinois, Peoria, Rockford and the Quad Cities. To expand the skilled manufacturing talent pipeline, the ILDMC will introduce manufacturing careers to high school students, promote employment in manufacturing for underrepresented communities and veterans, and facilitate retraining and employment of displaced workers.