MOLINE — With the distinctive sound of a hammer-forge in the background, Mark Denzler, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, armed with a bevy of statistics, hammered home the value of manufacturing in the state of Illinois on Wednesday at Moline Forge.
It was part of IMA’s “Manufacturing Matters Illinois” tour where Denzler is touting Illinois manufacturing throughout the state, based on a new economic study by IMA.
His motivations are many, he admitted after a short press conference.
“We want to tell our story,” he said. “We don’t think we do a good enough job sharing that with policy makers and the public about what is really made (in Illinois).”
Denzler noted that most people know that John Deere makes the combine locally.
“But it’s companies like Vic’s (Vic Almgren, president and CEO of Moline Forge) that really make that essential,” Denzler said.
“We want to tell a story about manufacturing, about the good middle-class jobs they provide and also let parents and students know there are great career opportunities in manufacturing.”
More than a half-million people may be employed in manufacturing in the state right now. But half of them are going to retire in the next 10 to 15 years, Denzler said. “So we need about 20,000 production workers and 3-5,000 engineers every year for the next decade or so just to remain constant,” he said.
It’s not just that more young workers are needed for what Danzler called good-paying, middle-class jobs, but he would also like to attract additional manufacturing to the state to take advantage of its strong rail, air and road transport systems.
He also wants to get the attention of lawmakers to make regulations a bit more favorable for manufacturers.
Not that the state is really hurting in the manufacturing world. And in many ways, neither is the country, by comparison.
“If you took the American manufacturing sector, and made it a country, it would be the ninth-largest economy in the world,” he said.
“If you took Illinois manufacturing and made it its own country, it would be the 63rd-largest (manufacturing) country in the world.”
Almgren’s Moline Forge was founded in 1915 with the sole purpose of producing artillery shell forgings for the Allied Forces during World War I in Europe.
These days the company is more known for its forging work for construction and agriculture. Even with just 50 employees, Almgen is still looking for additional hard workers to forge the hot steel and alloy into products needed locally and globally for manufacturers.
“We are always looking for good workers and trying to bring on people who have an aptitude for this type of work and a desire to make products with their hands,” he said.
But he clearly sees the need for the IMA to tout Illinois manufacturing.
“It’s critically important to support manufacturing because it generally lives in the background,” Almgren said.