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Voorhees Center’s Manufacturing Consortium Earns $5M DOD grant

A consortium led by the Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement at the University of Illinois Chicago has been awarded a five-year, $5 million grant through the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Manufacturing Community Support Program.

It’s one of six grants totaling approximately $30 million recently presented through the program that makes long-term investments in critical skills, facilities, workforce development, research and development, and small business support in order to strengthen national security innovation.

The Voorhees Center, based in the UIC College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, will lead the Illinois Defense Manufacturing Consortium, which consists of the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center and four regional organizations that independently and collectively focus on driving growth in four key defense-intensive-regions comprising 23 counties in Illinois and five counties in Iowa.

Together the partners will launch a Casting, Forging, and Energy Storage Center of Excellence to “introduce new offerings, comprehensive solutions, innovative manufacturing technologies and state-of-the-art workforce training modules targeting underrepresented populations.”

The federal grant is supplemented by an additional $1.6 million in non-federal funds to support the project.

“This grant will allow the Illinois Defense Manufacturing Consortium to develop innovative plans for boosting productivity, while also creating comprehensive programs to expand the skilled defense manufacturing talent pipeline,” said Yittayih Zelalem, director of the Voorhees Center at UIC. “We look forward to collaborating with Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center and our team of regional partners and economic development organizations in the Quad Cities, Rockford, Peoria and Chicago, as well as with other supporters and stakeholders.”

One goal of the consortium’s Center of Excellence is to strengthen supply chain productivity through the introduction of innovative technology and digital tools that will in turn stimulate market growth.

To expand the skilled manufacturing talent pipeline, the Illinois Defense Manufacturing Consortium will introduce manufacturing careers to high school students, promote employment in manufacturing for underrepresented communities and veterans, and facilitate retraining and employment of displaced workers.

The Voorhees Center will be responsible for coordinating consortium activities as well as providing applied research insights and data analysis; producing infographics and disseminating information through the project website and newsletter; and compiling data collected by partners to report to the sponsor.

It will also maintain the Supply Chain Mapping Tool, an online platform created by the Voorhees Center that provides users with real-time data for an informed perspective of the federal military’s manufacturing and supply chain in this part of the country.

Partners in the project are the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development represented by Chicago Metro Metals Consortium, Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce, Rockford Area Economic Development Council, Greater Peoria Economic Development Council and Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center.