ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The manufacturing industry puts food on the table for nearly 600,000 workers across Illinois, according to an industry head.
But, is there enough of a talent pool of up and coming career and technical workers?
Attendees of this week’s Rockford Area Economic Development Council Breakfast voiced their concern to the visiting President and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association, Mark Denzler.
“We’re working with schools every day to show them the great careers that are available in manufacturing,” Denzler said. “In Rockford, for example, there are 24,000 men and women working in manufacturing. One in six jobs are direct manufacturing jobs here in Winnebago County. And there’s another 23,000 that are indirectly [related].”
One way the IMA says manufacturers can help themselves is by participating in the Manufacturing Day expo, which is held the first Friday in October. Businesses open up their doors to show what they can do, and change the perception of manufacturing.
“I tell members of the General Assembly I wish they would spend a quarter of the time talking about manufacturing as they do on minimum wage,” Denzler said. “Minimum wage, even at $15 an hour, which is going to take effect [in Illinois], that’s $31,000 a year. We’re paying 2 and a half times that, on average.”
Denzler pointed out that many of those jobs are linked to Rockford and Winnebago County, known worldwide for the region’s aerospace connections.
“They’re thinking so much in the future about where do we want to be in ten years, and how everyone can work together. So, the Rockford area is doing phenomenal jobs, to say, ‘where do we want to be in 5 years or 10 years?’ And, making sure everyone’s rowing in the same direction. And they’re really best in class in terms of doing that.”
Winnebago County’s manufacturing output constitutes more than $9 million, almost a quarter of the county’s Gross Domestic Product.