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Manufacturing

Everyone is familiar with the effort to save the environment by growing and consuming food locally whenever possible.

It also makes sense to use local suppliers for the other things we buy, from the desks in our offices, to the parts that go into the locally-assembled items which are used by businesses and individuals every day, said Kent Gladish, senior director of member engagement for the Technology and Manufacturing Association (TMA). The TMA boasts 750 members in northeastern Illinois, all of whom are small to medium-sized manufacturers.

It is “woefully inefficient,” Gladish said, to transport from California, for instance, the heavy components that go into a tractor made in Moline. Why not make them in Illinois and save on the transportation costs and the environmental impact?

“As the transportation of goods becomes more and more expensive, it just makes sense to buy more of them from local manufacturers. When gas is cheap, we aren’t focused on it as much. But when gas is $4 a gallon, people start thinking about these things. Having manufacturing close to home makes sense,” he said.

That is one of the reasons why the abundance of manufacturing companies that call Schaumburg home is so important. Equally important, however, noted Matt Frank, Schaumburg’s assistant director of community development, is that fact that these firms provide high-paying, skilled careers to local people who pay income taxes. They also attract clients and vendors to their facilities, many of whom stay in local hotels and eat in local restaurants. In addition, these manufacturers pay property taxes that help support Schaumburg’s basic services like police and fire protection and road maintenance.

“What many people do not realize is that Schaumburg has more square footage devoted to manufacturing – 13 million – than we do to retail – 9.5 million – and that these manufacturing companies, which are primarily hidden away in industrial parks, provide a very stable base of employment for area residents,” Frank said.

“We have very high-quality manufacturers that make everything from food products to machines and from dental products to automotive parts. They operate beautiful facilities with showrooms and amphitheaters and the manufacturing floors themselves are clean and sleek. People would be very impressed if they saw them. They are not the dirty manufacturing plants of the past,” he added.

Innovative Components, Inc. is a perfect example of today’s high-end Schaumburg manufacturer. The maker of plastic knobs and handles and quick-release hardware for use in medical equipment, automobiles, consumer products and lawn and garden equipment employs 50 people in their Schaumburg factory and 120 worldwide. They have had a location within the village for 20 years.

“We have 1,800 active customers located all over the world including distributors like Fastenal, Grainger and McMaster-Carr and original equipment manufacturers like Caterpillar, John Deere and Toro,” said Mike O’Connor, president and founder.

“The goal of any business is to make profits for its shareholders and they will do that wherever they can do that best,” he said. “For us, that is in Schaumburg because of the outstanding logistical location, great infrastructure, excellent nearby community colleges offering manufacturing training and high population of skilled and talented people who live here. The cutting-edge talent in Schaumburg and surrounding communities allows us to operate so efficiently that it makes up for the ancillary costs of doing business in Illinois. Small, family-owned businesses like ours create a very stable source of jobs because we aren’t going to pick up and move somewhere else for tax breaks. We are part of the community.” ’

In the past year alone, three new manufacturing facilities bringing with them a total of 350 jobs have opened in Schaumburg. Sunstar, a dental implements manufacturer, has relocated from Chicago. In addition, Takisawa, a Japanese firm that makes precision machines, has opened a machine tool shop in the village and Shigiya, a Japanese maker of metal cylinders, has brought jobs to Schaumburg with the opening of a facility on State Parkway.

“In all, Schaumburg boasts over 60 Japanese firms with facilities here including Mazak, a machine tool manufacturer, and Amada, a manufacturer of sheet metal fabrication machines. They are drawn by our proximity to major expressways and to O’Hare International Airport, which allows them to easily do business both internationally and throughout the United States,” Frank said.

Like Innovative Components, Inc., they are also drawn by the plentiful supply of skilled workers and recent efforts by local school districts and Harper College to recruit young people to opt for careers in manufacturing, he added. The Schaumburg Business Association’s effort to promote local manufacturing through its periodic Manufacturers’ Summits is also having a positive impact.

“Schaumburg is doing the right things. They are talking a lot about manufacturing these days through their branding, communications and the periodic SBA Manufacturers’ Summits. Those are the kinds of things that make manufacturers feel welcome and valued,” Gladish said.

According to 2010 U.S. government data, Americans spent $14 trillion on everything they purchased that year, including food, cars, housing – everything – and only 2.7 percent of those goods were made in China.

“A lot of things are made right here, under people’s noses, and they just don’t realize it,” Gladish said. “We are all romanced by our big-screen televisions and iPhones so we think that all manufacturing is done overseas and that American manufacturing is dying. But that isn’t true at all. Young people can have lucrative, skilled careers in manufacturing right here and these are careers that do not require anyone to incur piles of college debt in order to qualify.”

O’Connor agreed. In fact, Innovative Components, Inc. is on the cutting edge of workforce recruitment. They offer their own internship program for high school students between their junior and senior years, during which participants rotate through and work in every department of the firm over the course of the summer so they get a taste of many different careers.

They are also heavily involved in District 211’s Transitions program for special needs students. These students are employed working in the office or doing light assembly or sorting so that they become comfortable in a professional environment and can one day be gainfully employed.

Innovative Components also offers two highly sought-after apprenticeships to recent high school graduates. Those chosen are given full scholarships to Harper College’s manufacturing associate degree program and are also sent to work in Innovative Components’ Costa Rican plant during the summer between years one and two of the program, giving them a study abroad opportunity. Once they complete the two-year program, apprentices are guaranteed a job at Innovative Components at a supervisor level.

Internships in accounting, customer service and engineering are also offered to college students, particularly those enrolled at Harper College.

“We need to get the word out to parents that, especially if they have a son or daughter who is a tinkerer, that that child should be encouraged to consider a career in manufacturing. Right now all of my members would happily hire a 24-year-old tinkerer with decent math skills. They would pay him or her $30-plus thousand a year while training them for a great, skilled career,” Gladish of the TMA said.

The TMA advocates for its membership in Springfield; helps members find new customers; offers CNC training for employees at their Schaumburg facility; and holds 70 networking and educational events annually, ranging from shop tours to golf outings, roundtable discussions and educational programming.

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