Voorhees Receives $1M Grant From Department of Defense

Voorhees Center Logo

The Natalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement has received funding from the Department of Defense’s Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation (OLDCC) to continue its work of building resiliency in the defense manufacturing sector in Illinois. This one million dollar ($1,000,000.00) Phase III Grant will fund the work of the center and its partners for 18 months (between January 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022), and is a follow-up to the $2.4 million Phase II Grant that ended in August 2020. The UIC Voorhees Center and the Illinois Defense Network (IDN) partners are very grateful for the continued support by the Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation (OLDCC), DOD. 

This funding will go towards bolstering several key DOD priorities including cybersecurity, workforce capacity building, as well as innovation and digitization. Coordinated by the UIC Voorhees Center, the scope of work supported by the grant will be implemented by IDN member organizations working in four key regions of the state: Chicago Metro Metal Consortium of Cook County in Northeast Illinois (CMMC); Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce (QC); Greater Peoria Economic Development Council (GPEDC); and Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC). Combined, these areas of the state hold 76.4 percent of the state’s population, 78 percent of its jobs, and 82.5 percent of its state gross domestic product. The Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC), the state MEP (Manufacturing Extension Partnership), is also part of the IDN network, providing technical services to the project team.

 “IDN members serve key defense-intensive-regions (DIR) that are vital for the state’s overall economic health, and continuing to sustain the network is critical to furthering the goals of the project as well as to enhancing collaboration and coordination to achieve community vitality and livability” said Yittayih Zelalem, Co-director of the UIC Voorhees Center and coordinator of the project. 

The Voorhees Center will support project implementation by providing data and insights, using resources including the state-wide defense supply chain mapping tool maintained by the center. It will also conduct various studies including, economic impact of defense spending, regional economic profiles, economic composition and change analyses, and defense industry profiles to enhance understanding of the defense footprint in the state. .

The continued support of the Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation (OLDCC) to the Illinois defense Network has been invaluable. OLDCC, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, has long served as a key force bridging U.S. military infrastructure with surrounding communities, ensuring important economic development efforts are undertaken to support areas impacted by defense spending and realignment. For the Voorhees Center, the partnership is a natural extension that recognizes the role of institutions in sustaining vibrant communities.

Following its designation as an EDA University Center by the U.S. Economic Development Administration in 2016, the Voorhees Center also received a grant from last year’s CARES Covid-19 response bill which bolstered the center’s ongoing relationship with key regional actors in Illinois that work to promote manufacturing in the state.