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updated: 6/7/2019 10:29 AM

Study highlights importance of manufacturing in Illinois’ economy

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  • A report prepared for the Illinois Manufacturers Association shows more than 10 percent of Illinoisans work directly in the manufacturing sector.

    A report prepared for the Illinois Manufacturers Association shows more than 10 percent of Illinoisans work directly in the manufacturing sector.
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By Scot Bertram
The Center Square

A new study shows more than 10 percent of Illinoisans work directly in the manufacturing sector.

The report, prepared for the Illinois Manufacturers Association by a University of Maryland research group, was commissioned in part to raise awareness across the state.

"Manufacturing is the state's largest economic engine," said Mark Denzler, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, "but I don't think that a lot of lawmakers or members of the public really understand the broad impact that manufacturing has in our state and actually what is made."

The study shows manufacturing employs nearly 600,000 workers directly, with another 430,000 jobs with suppliers and 525,000 more supported by the industry's spending. Denzler said the industry is more diverse than some might expect.

"People are familiar with Caterpillar and John Deere, but they might not know that food products comprise the single largest sector of the state's manufacturing, with chemicals second and machinery third," Denzler said. "Illinois is full of manufacturing facilities across the state that make some very cool products and we're anxious to tell that story."

Combined, nearly one in four Illinois workers are in manufacturing directly or in jobs the industry helps support. Denzler said its important lawmakers understand and appreciate the impact manufacturing has on the economy.

"You look at Winnebago County. They have about 24,000 men and women working in manufacturing, but it's 23 percent of the county's GDP," Denzler said. "It's true particularly in some downstate counties, like Peoria and Tazewell. But I also think a lot of people are surprised about Lake County, where almost 27 percent of GDP is manufacturing."

To ensure continued growth, Denzler said it's important to get support from both Springfield and Washington.

"Manufacturing is doing well in Illinois and could be doing better if we get some of the right policies in place," Denzler said. "It is the single largest share of the state product. It's critical that lawmakers and the governor nurture the manufacturing sector and make sure it continues to grow in Illinois."

Illinois exports totaled $65.2 billion in 2017, with 93 percent of exports manufactured goods and products.