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updated: 2/26/2014 1:33 PM

Harper College touts digital manufacturing hub coming to Chicago

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Harper College administrators are lauding the arrival of a manufacturing hub in Chicago.

President Barack Obama officially announced the initiative this week. The Department of Defense will kick in $70 million toward the project on Goose Island, while private and other public sources will contribute $250 million.

UI Labs, a research and development laboratory and think tank affiliated with the University of Illinois, will operate the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute.

Harper plans to stay in touch with the latest research coming out of the institute to give students a leg up on advances in several industries. The skills defined by the institute will shape curriculum at the Palatine-based community college, officials say.

"We're ready to hit the ground running with a qualified workforce," said Maria Coons, Harper's vice president of workforce and strategic alliances.

In 2012, Harper launched an advanced manufacturing program, that among other things offers students paid internships with suburban manufacturers. Chicago's institute will guide that training, Coons said.

"We're delighted," she said. "It's good for the state. It's good for our region."

Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute is a consortium of 73 companies, universities, nonprofits, and research labs, creating a novel partnership between world-leading manufacturing experts and cutting-edge software companies, according to a statement from the White House. Among its tasks will be seeking interoperability across the supply chain, develop enhanced digital capabilities to design and test new products, and reduce costs in manufacturing processes across multiple industries, according to the statement.

Obama this week also announced the creation of a Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing Innovation Institute in the Detroit area. the institute's goal, according to the White House, is to "expand the market for and create new consumers of products and systems that utilize new, lightweight, high-performing metals and alloys by removing technological barriers to their manufacture."

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