Cook County invests $925,000 in COVID-19 stimulus money to bolster south suburban metals, machinery and equipment manufacturers
Sunday, June 19, 2022
by Mike Nolan
Cook County is using $925,000 in federal COVID-19 pandemic stimulus money to bolster south suburban companies involved in metals, machinery and equipment manufacturing.
The county and the Southland Development Authority announced the launch Friday of the Metals Hub, an initiative to establish a collaborative network of south suburban companies in those industries.
“We know that COVID majorly disrupted the manufacturing industry, and the Metals Hub will help firms identify new suppliers and build a more resilient supply chain to build back better,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said at a news conference announcing the effort.
The money the county is putting up comes through the federal American Rescue Plan Act and is meant to support market research, identification of new business leads, and management to establish the hub, according to the county.
The launch was announced at a Crestwood company, Machining Systems Corp., which does metals machining and fabrication.
“The Southland has incredible strengths in metals, machinery and equipment and the Metals Hub has already identified several solid opportunities with original equipment manufacturers, and members have already begun to see returns from the network,” Bo Kemp, chief executive of the Southland Development Authority, said in a news release.
Preckwinkle said establishing the Metals Hub is an outgrowth of Cook County’s South Suburban Economic Growth Initiative, the first phase of which was outlined in spring 2017 and identified metals, machinery and equipment manufacturing as a potential growth opportunity for the area.
In announcing the initial study, Preckwinkle said the south suburbs are “asset-rich with people, infrastructure, businesses and real estate critical to the health of the regional economy.”
However, while other parts of suburban Cook County had enjoyed more robust economic growth, “in recent decades, parts of the south suburbs have struggled as they have become increasingly disconnected from the regional economic trajectory,” Preckwinkle said in her May 2017 letter regarding the economic growth initiative.
“This growing exclusion heightens the social and economic challenges these communities face and undermines the long-term growth of the entire metro region,” she said.
At that time, the effects of the 2009 recession were still being fully felt in the south suburbs in the form of job losses and depressed home values, and with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on the local economy yet to be realized.
The growth initiative report had identified areas such as transportation, distribution and logistics as well as metals, machinery and equipment manufacturing as growth opportunities for the south suburbs.
The report had noted employment in metals, machinery and equipment manufacturing in the south suburbs totaled 14,554 in 2014, which had been an increase of 5% compared with 2004.
For the Chicago metro area overall, employment in those industries had fallen 21% by 2014 compared with 2004.
The study noted, however, that employment in the south suburbs in those industries was projected to decrease by 4% by 2024.
Major south suburban employers in the metals, machinery and equipment manufacturing areas include Ford Motor Co.’s stamping plant in Chicago Heights, Allied Tube and Conduit in Harvey and crane manufacturer Mi-Jack Products in Hazel Crest, the study noted.