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Officials kick off tour of Illinois to highlight manufacturing sector

By KEVIN BESSLER
The Center Square

Manufacturing officials are hitting the road for a statewide bus tour to talk about the importance of manufacturing in Illinois.

The Illinois Manufacturers Association is hosting the bus tour, which will travel to nearly every region of the state for the next week. IMA President and CEO Mark Denzler said not only do they plan to visit manufacturing facilities, but also schools and colleges to highlight job opportunities in the sector.

“Probably the biggest challenge that manufacturers face is finding qualified workers so we have to change the perception that manufacturing is not dark, dirty and dangerous,” Denzler said. “Manufacturing today is high-tech and clean and sustainable.”

Denzler points to a recent study that found the total economic impact on manufacturing in Illinois is estimated to be around $600 billion every year, the largest share of any industry to the state’s Gross Domestic Product. It is estimated that the manufacturing industry supports nearly 30% of all jobs in Illinois, making it among the state’s largest industry sectors.

Two new manufacturing academies are scheduled to open this fall, and there is a new law that will require all high schools to offer career and technical education by 2025. There is also an apprenticeship tax credit for manufacturers that train employees.

Manufacturing and factory jobs have skyrocketed across the U.S. Manufacturers cut 1.3 million jobs in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But since then, the most recent jobs report revealed that there are almost 13 million people with manufacturing jobs, the most since November 2008.

The IMA bus tour runs through Friday, Oct. 14, and will stop in numerous cities, including Decatur, Bloomington, Carbondale and Springfield.

“The manufacturing workforce is a major part of our competitive advantage here in Illinois,” said David Boulay, president of the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center. “Traveling across the state to celebrate the past, present and future of the manufacturing industry can bring awareness to the accomplishments, opportunities and needs of the industry to build a better tomorrow.”

Staff Reporter Kevin Bessler reports on statewide issues in Illinois for the Center Square. He has over 30 years of experience in radio news reporting throughout the Midwest.

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