Durbin and Bustos: $320 million public-private partnership brings future of American manufacturing competitiveness to Illinois

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos (IL-17) said that the $70 million grant awarded to UI Labs will bring the future of American manufacturing to Illinois. With today’s announcement, Illinois will host a new national Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (or Digital Lab) organized by the Department of Defense that can create thousands of jobs in advanced manufacturing fields, improve military readiness and make our economy more competitive.  Regional partners in the new Digital Lab include the Quad Cities Manufacturing Lab, John Deere, Western Illinois University – Engineer Campus and Black Hawk Community College. 

Last year during his trip to Galesburg, Bustos personally urged President Obama to bring a Digital Lab to Illinois.

Durbin and Bustos joined U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and the entire Illinois Congressional Delegation in leading the Congressional effort to secure today’s grant.  They sent two letters to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel which can be accessed HERE and HERE. As the Chairman for the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Durbin included in the final Omnibus Appropriations bill full funding for the Digital Lab and full support for the advanced manufacturing institutes program.

“This new Digital Lab has the potential to revolutionize the way the United States approaches manufacturing and a major effort will be centered in Illinois,” Durbin said. “Partners from across the state including the Quad Cities Manufacturing Laboratory, the Blue Waters Supercomputer at the University of Illinois, Northwestern University, the Illinois Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago, Southern Illinois University and the City Chicago will be at the forefront of innovative, industry-driven research that will make America more competitive on the global stage. Illinois will undoubtedly benefit from the thousands of jobs created through this research.”

“Growing our economy, creating jobs and bolstering American manufacturing has been my focus since taking office, and that is why I’m so pleased by today’s announcement that Illinois will be home to this new Digital Lab,” said Bustos.  “Our state’s workforce is the best in the world and with today’s announcement will now be well positioned to be home to even more of the good-paying manufacturing and research jobs of the future.  I want to thank Senator Durbin and my colleagues in the Illinois Congressional Delegation for their strong support for this important job-creating project.”   

UI Labs leads a consortium of more than 750 industry, academic, government, community and organizational supporters and partners which have committed $250 million to the project - more than tripling the federal investment. Included are the nation’s premier engineering schools, the country’s leading defense and commercial manufacturers, one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers and nationally-recognized educational and business development partners.

In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama proposed a series of new manufacturing institutes each designed to serve as a regional hub that will build on recent manufacturing gains by bringing together innovative research with product development with the goal of making American factories smarter, faster and more efficient. The Department of Defense is the lead agency on the Digital Lab that was awarded to Chicago today.

Leveraging the Midwest’s unique capabilities, partnerships and workforce, the Digital Lab will develop innovative solutions that transform both defense and civilian industries with hundreds of billions in annual savings. Because many of the new jobs created will require new skills that the workforce must follow, the Digital Lab will also serve as a vehicle for workforce development, through partnerships with trade associations, community colleges, and local economic development organizations. By increasing transparency and lowering barriers, digital manufacturing technologies will create new opportunities for small manufacturers and create high-wage, high-skilled jobs for American workers.