Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance Awards First Grant to New Collaboration between Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center and ManufacturingWorks

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Partnership direct result of Chicago’s Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs; Brings process improvement together with workforce development

World Business Chicago
Strategic collaboration among organizations is critical to ensure the success of our region’s manufacturers

The Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance today announced it will award its first industry-workforce partnership grant to the newly-aligned Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC) and ManufacturingWorks. The grant and partnership were presented to funders, manufacturers and community leaders at WaterSaver’s manufacturing plant in Chicago, in conjunction with World Business Chicago (WBC).

“Strategic collaboration among organizations is critical to ensure the success of our region’s manufacturers,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “We must continue to bring together key parties to advance industry and bring jobs to Chicago, particularly in areas like manufacturing, which are critical to the future of economic development in Chicago and the surrounding area.”

The Funder Alliance has chosen to award its first industry-workforce partnership grant to the IMEC-ManufacturingWorks partnership due to the partnership’s focus on building a platform that will drive additional value to both manufacturers and underprepared workers across the city and the region. The grant provides $300,000 - $400,000 annually for two to three years, beginning this fall. The Funder Alliance is a collaborative of 11 workforce development funders working with employers and other workforce stakeholders to increase employment and earnings for underprepared workers in the Chicago region.

“Chicagoland is blessed with both a robust manufacturing sector and an extensive network of manufacturing workforce service providers. This new partnership will bridge those assets in innovative ways in order to address persistent gaps between the region’s workforce and employers,” said Matt Bruce, executive director of the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance. “Chicagoland’s manufacturers need a skilled workforce to grow and thrive, and the region’s workers need jobs; engaging both underprepared workers and employers in collaborative solutions can solve both challenges at once.”

The new partnership connects IMEC’s federally supported hands-on advisory services to help manufacturers become more productive and globally competitive with ManufacturingWorks’ local expertise in revitalizing and strengthening manufacturing workforce development to meet employer needs. The collaboration, which also includes the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council, is expected to grow to incorporate a wide array of services and partner organizations.

Becoming a leading manufacturing hub and creating demand-driven and targeted workforce development are key components of Chicago’s Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs, created by WBC at Mayor Emanuel’s request. This partnership represents the deep strategic alignment across key components facilitated by WBC. Now leadership across the Plan will be working with IMEC and ManufacturingWorks on developing a scalable platform for manufacturing service coordination across the region.

“This new collaboration proves the power of what can happen when we, as a region, work together,” said Jeff Malehorn, president & CEO of World Business Chicago. “WBC developed the city’s Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs to be an inclusive blueprint that brings together all of the various stakeholders to accelerate Chicago’s economy. Bringing together complementing organizations aligned to the Plan to create an environment where manufacturers can flourish is one step in that direction.”

Manufacturing is among the region’s largest and most prominent sectors, accounting for $53.9 billion GRP, with a projected growth rate of 3.3 percent compared to 2.1 percent for the economy as a whole. The shift toward advanced manufacturing brings the need for a skilled workforce and a focus on innovation and research in products and process that this new collaboration will bring along with its growing group of partners.


World Business Chicago (WBC) leads Chicago’s business retention, attraction and expansion efforts and raises the city’s position as a premier global business destination. Chaired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, WBC fosters private sector growth through the advancement of a business-friendly environment that attracts world class talent, and is responsible for the implementation of Chicago’s Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs.

Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC) delivers hands-on technical assistance and strategic advisement to help manufacturers to be more productive and globally competitive. Since 1996, IMEC has helped more than 2,500 Illinois manufacturing companies to achieve more than $1.5 billion in productivity, profit, and cost savings improvements.

ManufacturingWorks is the regional Manufacturing Business Service Sector Center dedicated specifically to the workforce development services that directly impact the Manufacturing Employer. ManufacturingWorks’ mission is to revitalize and strengthen the manufacturing workforce development community by understanding “Advanced Manufacturing” and the specific needs of the regions’ manufacturing employers.

The Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance (CWFA) collaborates with employers and other workforce stakeholders to increase employment and earnings for underprepared workers in the Chicago region. There are currently 11 members of the Alliance: The Chicago Community Trust, the Joyce Foundation, the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation the Polk Bros. Foundation, the Boeing Company,the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago ,JP Morgan Chase, the Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation, the Woods Fund of Chicago, and the Michael Reese Health Trust.

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Amy Fitzgerald
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