llinois is in the midst of a manufacturing resurgence. Manufacturing output during the rebound year of 2021, the latest for which federal figures are available, jumped an impressive 12% to $115 billion, according to the National Association of Manufacturers, with Illinois’ manufacturing employers adding thousands of jobs that pay an average wage of more than $97,000. Gains like these are poised to accelerate, given not just the momentum of manufacturing nationwide but an auspicious, statewide push to inject Illinois’ traditional assets — its central location, sprawling infrastructure and robust industrial workforce among them — with aggressive investments in technology, innovation and worker training.
Last September, Illinois awarded the first in a series of incentives packages under its newly established Reimagining Energy and Vehicles Act (REV Illinois Act), which serves as a cornerstone of Gov. JB Pritzker’s vision to make Illinois “the best place in North America to manufacture an electric vehicle.” TCCI, a worldwide maker of automotive compressors based in Decatur, Illinois, plans to leverage the package to invest some $20 million to shift production of its EV compressors to the home front.
Manner Polymers is expanding in Illinois.
Photo courtesy of Manner Polymers
“Thanks to the REV Act, Illinois beat out international competition to bring this deal home,” Pritzker said. “That means new jobs and jobs that would have gone overseas are staying right here.”
Richard Demirjian, president of TCCI Manufacturing, said, “This is a significant moment for TCCI, the City of Decatur and the State of Illinois, as we embark on new programs to transition our industry toward widespread electrification.”
In addition to the REV incentive, TCCI is to benefit in a very large way from Rebuild Illinois grants totaling $21.3 million recently awarded to Decatur’s Richland Community and the City of Decatur to create an EV Cluster at TCCI’s global headquarters. Plans for the cluster include an EV Component Manufacturing Facility, a Climatic Center for Research & Innovation and an advanced training center for EV engineering and software technology.
“Together we are establishing a new model for Illinois that sets the stage for how education, research and industry work together to cohesively advance us faster, invest in our people and grow our economy,” Richland Community College President Cris Valdez said. “This state-of-the-art facility will provide world class training in electrification and a registered apprenticeship program, along with immersive industry partnerships and testing available to the electric vehicle industry.”
A Big Win for Southern Illinois
Based in McKinney, Texas, Manner Polymers announced plans in June to build a $54 million advanced manufacturing plant in the small town of Mount Vernon, deep in southern Illinois. The company plans to power its operations with an on-site solar farm. Manner develops and produces flexible PVC compounds that can eventually find their way into electric vehicles, among an array of other products.
“We turn oil resins into little bitty plastic pellets that can be turned into anything you can imagine,” says controller Matt Love, “from a cover on a wire to a seal around a door to just about any little widget.”
Like TCCI, Manner Polymers is a recipient of REV tax credits, part of a package of federal, state and local incentives totaling $9 million, says Love. As part of the package, the state of Illinois is to pay $2.5 million toward the construction of a 1,000-foot rail spur to link Manner’s new plant to the mainline of Union Pacific Railroad, which supplies Manner’s raw materials. The city is to cover the costs of road and water main extensions, and a local utility will pay for electricity and gas lines.
“The state of Illinois,” Love says, “was very aggressive with their incentives compared to other states we were looking at. That was a major factor.”
But not the only factor. Mount Vernon’s central location and the access it offers to multiple transportation modes played a role, as well.
“One of the strengths of our area,” says Tony Iriti, executive director of Jefferson County Development Corporation, “is that we have three Class I railroads that come directly into Mount Vernon and converge on a single location and then connect to two other Class I railroads. Interstate 64 goes east and west, and Interstate 57 goes north and south, and they cross right here in Mount Vernon. So, we’re a crossroads,” he says.
With its orientation toward solar power and electric vehicles, plus the company’s pledge to create 60 well-paying jobs in southern Illinois, Manner, says Iriti, “touches every hot button in Illinois,” making it a major win for the state. As if to underscore the project’s importance, Gov. Pritzker intervened personally to guarantee funding for the rail spur, which served to put the deal over the top.
“Throughout the entire process,” says Love, “city and state officials were great about quickly addressing challenges and coming up with an equitable solution to make the site work for us.”
Overseas Investor Gains an EDGE
In calendar year 2022, companies taking part in Illinois’ Economic Development for a Growing Economy Tax Credit Program (EDGE) committed to more than $1 billion of investment. EDGE provides annual corporate tax credits to qualifying businesses for capital investment and job creation. Germany-based Flender, a leading global supplier for mechanical and electrical drive systems, announced plans in early 2023 to utilize EDGE tax credits to help create 50 new full-time jobs and retain 140 existing positions at its facility in Elgin. The suburb west of Chicago has hosted the company’s U.S. operations since 1967.
“Chicago is a major transportation hub, and with Flender being a global manufacturer across multiple industries it gives us the ability to import, export and domestically transport products that weigh as much as 100,000 lbs.,” Flender CEO William Galdo told the Daily Herald in April. “As much as the federal government has done to support our industries that we serve, it’s the local and state governments that have awarded us the opportunity to be successful in a very competitive market.”
“... city and state officials were great about quickly addressing challenges.”
— Matt Love, Controller, Manner Polymers
Flender’s new investments will enable the company to expand its manufacturing operations — including gear boxes for wind turbines — thus bolstering Illinois’ focused effort to grow clean energy manufacturing.
“Flender’s expansion is a win for both Elgin workers and our clean energy economy,” said State Sen. Cristina Castro (D-Elgin). “Illinois has smartly positioned itself to be a hub for innovation and manufacturing in the clean energy sector, and we aren’t stopping now.”