ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Rockford is the first city to be chosen as a digital manufacturing hub.
A new program in Rockford is attempting to revolutionize manufacturing nationwide.
"I see this as the next coming of the Industrial Revolution, and it's starting right here in Rockford," says Congresswoman Cheri Bustos.
With over 700 manufacturing companies in the Rockford region, a new program hopes to use the existing local resources to help digitize American manufacturing, or the idea of having the data flowing through machines throughout the entire manufacturing process, increasing efficiency.
"This is a momentous day for Rockford, Illinois," continues Bustos.
A momentous day because the program is setting the stage for future expansion and will help position Rockford as a global leader in advanced manufacturing.
The Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII) is partnering with NIU to open it's first chapter in Rockford.
The program will connect companies, like Woodward, with advanced tools and help train workers and students for new jobs created by the digital manufacturing revolution.
Senator Dick Durban adds, "I don't just want America to lead in manufacturing. I want Illinois to lead, and I want Rockford to continue to lead. That's what we're doing here, to initiate an effort into the next generation of thinking, manufacturing technology, and the next generation of jobs."
"What we're about is creating manufacturing, technology dominance, that will help communities attract more jobs because they're going to be competitive as they adopt these technologies," says Dean Bartles, Chief Manufacturing Officer for UI Labs and Executive Director of DMDII.
Bartles says manufacturing dominance is important for five reasons: national security, the country's economy, trade competitiveness, dominance in national innovation, and dominance in battlefield technology.
Partners that have already signed on include Rockford Area Economic Development Council, Rockford Area Aerospace Network, and the Rockford Chamber of Commerce Manufacturer's Council.
Senator Durbin says the chapter will bring millions of dollars back to the state and benefit the local community by preparing for tomorrow's jobs.
Bustos agrees, ""I think this community should be very proud of that, that of all the regions of IL and all the regions in the Midwest and all the regions in the country, this digital manufacturing lab chose Rockford as its very first hub. That means there's trust in this community, we know that we've got one of the best workforce in the world, we're well prepared for this next generation, the next industrial revolution."