Illinois manufacturers excited about growth of industry

Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 5:49 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Manufacturing supports 1.7 million jobs and helps generate up to $611 billion dollars annually for Illinois. That’s according to a new economic impact study for the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.

This study shows manufacturing supports nearly 30% of all jobs in Illinois, and leaders hope to see it continue as one of the state’s largest industries.

“Too many people take the state’s manufacturing sector for granted,” said IMA President and CEO Mark Denzler. “But if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the need for a strong American manufacturing sector and supply chains.”

The Illinois manufacturing sectors continue to see growth from food and agriculture and heavy equipment to metal fabrication, transportation, and pharmaceutical manufacturing. Industry leaders said the reason manufacturing continues to grow is the relationship between community colleges, factories, and economic development centers.

“We have a lot of training facilities and a lot of experts in this state who can help bring that dream to life for many of us,” said Greg Webb, chair of the IMA Board of Directors. Webb and Denzler spoke Wednesday morning during a “Manufacturing Matters” event at Decatur’s Richland Community College.

You may know Decatur as the “soybean capital of the world.” However, this Central Illinois city is home to ADM’s North America headquarters producing corn oil, animal feed, and ingredients for some of your favorite foods. You can also find large wheel loaders and mining trucks at the Caterpillar facility not far from the Richland campus. Webb noted that manufacturing generates $13.4 billion in total economic output for Macon County.

“Decatur manufacturers have a hand in products from your dinner plate to outer space and everywhere in-between,” said Nicole Bateman, President of the Macon County Economic Development Corporation. “My sincere thanks to leadership teams that believe in the power of investing in manufacturing in Decatur and throughout the state of Illinois.”

The economic impact study conducted by economists from the University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business found Illinois manufacturers have an employment multiplier of 2.7. Research economist Joe Von Nessen explained that means for every 10 manufacturing jobs directly created in Illinois, another 17 jobs are created elsewhere across the state. He noted every job created by a manufacturer leads to more hires and spending across multiple industries.

“Future expansions of the manufacturing industry have the ability to scale up employment in ways that many industries in this state cannot,” Von Nessen said.

The top 20 manufacturing occupations are expected to rise by 3.1% by 2028, according to the USC study. That is something current students like Larry Johnson are excited about. Johnson is already a private contractor with 30 years of experience. Although, he said there are always new certifications you can receive to get a higher-paying job.

“It’s very encouraging for me and it should be for a lot of other people just to see that folks get knocked down and they don’t stop trying,” Johnson said.

Every industry faced unique challenges since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but industry leaders said the state’s manufacturing sector remains strong and resilient. Still, Denzler said nearly every manufacturer has a help wanted sign out right now.

“Trying to attract - whether it’s young men and women coming out of high school, ex-offenders, dislocated workers, returning veterans - we have to get them into jobs,” Denzler said. “And we have to do a better job of showcasing what manufacturing is.”

Denzler hopes the “Manufacturing Matters” campaign will get more people interested in the high-paying jobs in the industry. 37% of in-demand manufacturing jobs require some form of post-secondary education.

The economic impact study also found that manufacturing jobs pay a wage premium of 11.7% above the average wage for all jobs in Illinois.

The IMA recently worked with Illinois lawmakers to require every public school to start offering career and technical education by 2025. Illinois is also launching a $7 million manufacturing jobs campaign later this year.

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