• Posted: April 7, 2017

    Let's reshape view of blue-collar jobs

    A Letter to the Daily Herald Editor


    A March 23 editorial published by the Daily Herald, "Community colleges help students find jobs on the road and in the trades," is right on target -- but the concept has much wider reach into advanced manufacturing that continue to be unrecognized opportunities.


    The editorial talks about the value provided by community colleges and vocational education's role in leading to good career opportunities. At the Choose DuPage Economic Development Alliance, we have continuously advocated on behalf of innovative industries. DuPage County is home to a number of small and large manufacturers. There is a wealth of opportunity that exists in the industry and great training programs being offered through our community colleges. College of DuPage offers everything from associate degrees to certification and vocational skills programs; several of their programs work directly with employers to ensure the skills being taught in the classroom appropriately prepare students for the workplace.


    Choose DuPage encourages the next generation to consider the field of manufacturing. Jobs are becoming more technologically savvy, require expert training on high tech equipment and be adaptable to an advanced workplace. The days of using a hammer are long gone for the average manufacturer -- positions in today's shop room floors are advanced, they use technology, and the jobs pay well… usually without any student debt. According to the Illinois Manufacturers' Association, the average manufacturing employee in Illinois earns about $25,000 more than the average worker in other industries, yet many manufacturing jobs remain unfilled. We need to do a better job of communicating the good jobs, wages, benefits and opportunities that exist in the manufacturing industry.


    Evolving technology is leading the way to new and exciting opportunities. I encourage us all to reshape our perception of trade industries and manufacturing -- these are no longer "Blue Collar Jobs" -- but rather, "White Coat Professions."


    John Carpenter
    President & CEO

    Choose DuPage



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  • Posted: April 6, 2017

    Chicago to deliver on western access facility for passengers at O'Hare, officials say

    Western Access O


    Suburban officials have high hopes an actual building where fliers can check bags, go through security and ride a people-mover train to terminals is coming to the west side of O'Hare International Airport.


    The Illinois tollway is extending Route 390, the former Elgin-O'Hare Expressway, east. The road is expected to penetrate O'Hare by 2019 or so, providing western access to the airport for suburbanites.


    Previous, more modest plans involved a parking lot and bus to convey passengers, but that underwhelmed DuPage leaders who wanted a western terminal.


    Recent "conversations (with Chicago) have been positive," Tollway Chairman Robert Schillerstrom said Friday.


    In addition to parking, "they're going to construct a building where people can come in, get their tickets, go through security, check their bags and take a people-mover to anywhere in the airport," he noted.


    A Chicago Department of Aviation spokesman did not comment.


    Development on the western side of the airport comes amid other significant changes. The city is retiring one diagonal runway in 2018 and will open a new parallel runway on the north airfield in 2020.


    Last summer, Chicago announced a massive redevelopment program at O'Hare that includes nine new gates at Terminal 5 and redeveloping the outdated Terminal 2.


    At the time, CDA officials said a people-mover train was coming to the west side of the airport eventually. They could not confirm when, saying they were prioritizing the other expansions.


    The city intends to expand Terminal 5, which opened 23 years ago, by 25 percent.


    Plans for Terminal 2 would convert the underused facility into a central hub with a new U.S. Customs and Border Patrol center and TSA screening stations.


    DuPage County leaders have pushed for a western entrance and terminal at O'Hare for decades, with expectations it would spark an economic boom.


    The tollway is currently building Route 390 along Thorndale Avenue and will complete a section from I-290 to Route 83 this year.


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  • Posted: March 23, 2017

    Choose DuPage Panel Discusses Workforce Issues Facing Manufacturers

    Contributed and originally published by: Pioneer Service Inc. | View Original Article

    A number of organizations joined forces to discuss the growing challenge of fueling the manufacturing labor force and making more people aware of the career opportunities uniquely available in this thriving part of our economy. Experts representing manufacturers, educational institutions, non-profit governmental organizations and even a representative from the U.S. Department of Labor joined the discussion and made valuable connections at the DuPage Metals and Machinery Manufacturing event sponsored by the Choose DuPage Economic Development Alliance and the Chicago Metro Metals Consortium. 


    In the opening remarks, Dan Allen the Chairman of Choose DuPage Workforce Committee reminded us of the huge shortage of workers expected in the next 10 years. Millions of jobs in the manufacturing segment could go unfilled unless something is done to nurture the next generation of employees. DuPage and the surrounding Chicagoland area has a benefit of being one of 24 regions in the United States designated for manufacturers, so it qualifies for preferential treatment in the disbursement of grants and other incentives. Manufacturers, associations and educational organizations need to come together to take advantage of these opportunities and fill the gap.


    In this panel discussion, Pioneer Service President, Aneesa Muthana was asked about the challenges and solutions facing manufacturers. Ms. Muthana kicked off the conversation with her story of re-training her entire workforce when she had to change her business model due to overseas competition. Because skilled talent was nearly impossible to find in her new market, she relied heavily on the manufacturers of the CNC equipment for training. It took out-of-the-box thinking and strong employee loyalty to weather the change from making relatively simple parts on older screw machines, to making highly complex medical and automotive parts on new advanced Swiss CNC lathes.


    Aaron Wiegel, President of Wiegel Tool Works agreed that finding skilled labor was so difficult that his company now focused most of their efforts on educating youth about manufacturing careers and funneling them into apprenticeships. Mr. Wiegel emphasized the importance of manufacturers coming together with associations such as the TMA to promote manufacturing careers on the whole, rather than poaching employees from one another, which drives up costs for everyone. "We have to have a pipeline of applicants. This means we need to do things like sponsor high school competitions, involve parents and provide summer jobs." Ms. Muthana discussed the need to engage students younger, and has plans to have plant tours for middle-schoolers in the near future. Jim Jett, President of Chips Manufacturing, agreed and asked the educational institutions to focus on math skills which are a key component of qualifying entry-level applicants at his company. 


    John Bradarich, Affiliate Relations Manager of IMEC, who has provided countless resources to manufacturers in the region, including Pioneer Service, said that with the grants and resources available, employers in manufacturing can "hire for attitude, train for aptitude." 


    This panel discussion, which was followed by very practical advice in the subsequent panel, was a reminder to all manufacturing executives to take time to work not just in their businesses, but on their businesses, to develop tomorrow's workforce today.

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  • Posted: March 19, 2017

    Luxury Amenities, Restaurant Planned for Marq on Main Apartment Complex in Downtown Lisle

    Development in Downtown Lisle

    Proximity to the Lisle commuter station is not the only attraction of Marq on Main, the mixed use residential community currently under development on the site what once was the Old Village Hall in Downtown Lisle. The project has a host of luxury amenities to offer residents seeking the vibrancy and convenience of downtown living coupled with the small-town ambience and natural surroundings of the “Arboretum Village.”


    The mixed-use development includes 202  1- and 2-bedroom apartments in five stories on Burlington Avenue and three stories along Main Street, with indoor parking for residents and tenants, as well as 35 new on-street parking spaces. Some 15,000 square-feet of new commercial space will add restaurant and retail uses that will strengthen the commercial district, build foot traffic and enhance the downtown as an attractive dining destination. The development will feature a new public plaza offering outdoor dining at Main and Burlington, as well an additional public plaza at Spencer and Burlington, and two rooftop courtyards providing along Burlington Avenue. An upscale restaurant and craft beer tap room is planned.


    “We are pleased to be adding to the vitality of Downtown Lisle,” says Marquette President and CEO Nick Ryan. “Mayor Broda and the Village have remained committed to economic development and this transit-oriented development is the type of development that has seen great success in surrounding communities. We expect to see the same energy and interest in downtown Lisle.”


    Amenities residents can enjoy include a resort-style pool with cabanas and sun deck, as well as a pergola lounge, fire table and grilling stations. Indoors, residents will have access to a tech lounge and a chill lounge with coffee available 24-hours. An onsite health club is also planned. The development brings an investment of $45M to downtown Lisle, and is now leasing for an expected Fall 2017 opening.


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