The Evolution of Illinois Manufacturing with mHUB

We frequently say in our industry — manufacturing not only thrives, it constantly evolves. The manufacturing industry has certainly experienced its share of change, evolving from what many still envision as “traditional” manufacturing and the assembly lines of our fathers' day, to today's manufacturing that is digital, high tech and driven by ideas and innovation.

When I think of modern manufacturing right here in Illinois — I think of mHUB, Chicago's innovation center for physical product development and manufacturing. When an advisory council of manufacturing leaders looked forward to what was most needed in the regional manufacturing landscape, the idea for a manufacturing incubator was born. The product of those discussions was mHUB, which allows Chicago and the suburbs to maintain their leadership in innovation and manufacturing while also attracting and cultivating talent in the region and increasing business and investment opportunities.

Since opening in March 2017, they've created opportunities for leading companies, like GE and OceanComm, as well as small and mid-sized manufacturers and startups to find a place where innovation and manufacturing go hand in hand. mHUB's community of product designers, developers, entrepreneurs, engineers and production technicians work in ten different shops and labs and offer services including electronics, plastic fabrication, metals and rapid prototyping as well as a microfactory for small production runs. They've taken all the ideas and manufacturing techniques of a traditionally long and costly product development process and accelerated the process. Members are able to rent space at mHUB, thus having access to state of the art labs and services, but even more importantly, other bright minds and makers occupying the 63,000-square-foot building. mHUB can serve hundreds of entrepreneurs at any given time.

As the leader of Illinois' leading manufacturing organization, it's an exciting opportunity to watch an organization like mHUB re-imagine manufacturing. Manufacturers and entrepreneurs are able to connect in new and exciting ways to create products, and it's shown that modern manufacturing is all about relationships, connections and innovation — words that have not always come to mind when talking about our industry.

From an economic standpoint, mHUB is continuing manufacturing's evolution towards more skilled, higher-wage jobs. The average manufacturing wage in Illinois is $82,000, including benefits, while R&D jobs command a higher salary. We know that manufacturing careers are the fastest way to grow the middle class and focusing on higher-paying opportunities is a great start.

mHUB is also positively impacting the Chicagoland economy by bringing in talent, helping companies make vital connections, and consequently, continuing to grow their use of the facility. Starting with 100 members in March 2017, mHub now has more than 300 members and 85 different companies that are bringing their manufacturing innovation here. They've also attracted business from other states; Pennsylvania, Ohio, Idaho and California to name just a few.

mHUB is connecting the best of manufacturers, engineers, university researchers and talent, entrepreneurs, technologists and investors, creating the largest number of emerging manufacturing technologies right here in our state.

The modern manufacturing evolution in Illinois is here and we will continue to watch mHUB thrive and grow our industry by allowing companies all over the globe to establish a manufacturing footprint in the region.

• Greg Baise is president & CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association.

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