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It takes a village—Elk Grove Village—to promote hometown manufacturing

While "Made in the USA" is important for many in small-town America, it's the hometown manufacturing industry that's key to their economic survival. On October 12, Elk Grove Village held its third annual Manufacturing & Technology Expo to showcase the importance of manufacturing in this town of nearly 34,000.

While "Made in the USA" is important for many in small-town America, it's the hometown manufacturing industry that's key to their economic survival. On October 12, Elk Grove Village held its third annual Manufacturing & Technology Expo to showcase the importance of manufacturing in this town of nearly 34,000.

Having felt the effects of a challenging business climate in Illinois and the aggressive courting by neighboring states to lure away businesses, Elk Grove Village has launched its own TV, radio, print and outdoor advertising campaign—"Makers Wanted"—to increase awareness of its strategic location and to attract manufacturing firms and skilled workers.

MET Plastics
MET Plastics President Mike Walter accepts the Business Excellence
Award for donating manufacturing equipment to Elk Grove High School
during the town's recent Manufacturing & Technology Expo.

More than 1,000 members of the regional manufacturing sector attended the Manufacturing & Technology Expo, which showcased 100 manufacturing firms located in the village of Elk Grove. The event also shined a spotlight on the advanced manufacturing and engineering coursework offered by Elk Grove High School. A total of 1,200 registered attendees came to this unique event, including Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig B. Johnson and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.

Manufacturing is a vital part of the Chicagoland economy, as evidenced by the number of manufacturing companies—many of them global OEMs—located in the region. Mayor Johnson is passionate about the importance of manufacturing, not just to Elk Grove Village but also to the larger regional economy, said the press release. Johnson received a Small Business Advocate Award from the U.S. Council of Mayors at the expo, noted a publicist for the event.

Everyone knows the importance of preparing the next generation of manufacturing employees to step into the shoes of those who are retiring, and Elk Grove is no exception. Elk Grove High School, the site of the Manufacturing & Technology Expo, showcased its educational efforts targeting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) coursework and skilled workforce development with demonstrations by students in their advanced manufacturing and engineering laboratory.

In addition, the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC) facilitated its Manufacturing Matchmaking event during the expo to introduce small, local manufacturers to larger OEMs with whom they can become supply-chain partners.

Elk Grove Village is home to what the town claims is the largest industrial park in the United States, comprising six square miles with over 62 million square feet of building space. Businesses in the park employ more than 100,000 people and represent a broad range of industries, including manufacturing, technology, retail, healthcare, warehousing and logistics.

Many small towns have a problem keeping their young people at home, because of a lack of jobs and good career opportunities. It sounds like Elk Grove Village doesn't have that problem, and people are working hard at creating opportunities for the future of the town and its residents.

Held on the heels of Manufacturing Day on Oct. 2, Elk Grove Village's Manufacturing & Technology Expo comes at a time when the United States is focused on the value of manufacturing and the good jobs the manufacturing sector offers. Every community could do something similar. With the collaboration of the local high school and its STEM program, employers in the town can be assured that future employees will be ready for the jobs that they offer.

Several local plastics processors and moldmaking companies participated in the event, including American Molding Technologies; Arrow Plastics/Illinois Bottle; B&M Plastics: Centech Plastics; and MET Plastics, a custom molding and mold manufacturing company that received a Business Excellence Award for donating surplus equipment to the high school in order to help train the next generation of skilled workers for local manufacturing businesses.

Mike Walter, President of MET Plastics Inc., told PlasticsToday that the company donated excess equipment from the toolroom, including two Bridgeports that ran fine but didn't have the best accuracy. "We contacted Elk Grove High School to see if they could use them, and they were thrilled to take them," said Walter. "They are currently using them to teach the kids the fundamentals of machining. They already have CNC milling machines in their facility, but the Bridgeports give the kids a better feel for the effect of speeds and feeds on the machining process."

Walter said he's always happy to help out whenever he can because he sees it paying off in the enthusiasm of the kids when they work on the different types of machines. "That enthusiasm will hopefully spark an interest in manufacturing as a career, and the skills that they learn on the equipment will help build the foundation that's needed to succeed in manufacturing," he added.

Governor Rauner spoke to the approximately 100 exhibitors, recognizing Elk Grove Village as one of the premier centers for manufacturing in the Midwest. Mayor Johnson was happy for the opportunity to show Governor Rauner the event, which Elk Grove Village hosts at no cost to attendees or exhibitors. "The [town] works hard to provide value to our businesses, because we know that their success is our success," said Mayor Johnson. "This event is just one facet of our efforts to go ‘Beyond Business Friendly' and really support our manufacturers and the business community as a whole."

Prior to the public portion of the expo, the U.S. Conference of Mayors presented Mayor Johnson with the Small Business Advocate Award, which recognizes mayors and communities that have demonstrated their commitment to and support of small businesses.

"It is an honor for me and the Village to receive this kind of recognition," said Mayor Johnson. "We are always working to support and promote our business community."

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