Gov. Pat Quinn will announce today in his State of the State speech that the Urbana-Champaign school, in partnership with its National Center for Supercomputing Applications and private companies, will be forming an Illinois Manufacturing Lab likely to be located in the central area of Chicago.
The facility will be a somewhat smaller, more applications-based version of the UI Labs tech-research center that was announced in January by U of I President Robert Easter and others. The prime goal will be to make the state’s manufacturers more competitive, something that has become increasingly challenging as overseas firms take control of many of the world’s factories.
Quinn thinks this is going to be like 1871 for manufacturing. It won’t be.
Manufacturing is going high-tech. There was a story (I’m too lazy to find right now) a few weeks ago about the new Apple factory in the U.S. is much touted and “moving tech. manufacturing back to U.S. soil.” However the details are such that the new Apple plant will have very few workers. All the manufacturing will be done by machines, robots. Humm….
That is the future. The old days when some dude (or dudette) got paid a decent wage to assemble something complicated are gone. The more complicated the design to more automation is used in place of human labor. The robot never needs to use the bathroom. The robot doesn’t eat lunch, or have a sick kid, or get carpel tunnel. And one person can manage several dozen robots.
What Chicago really needs is to lower the cost of doing business so that a paper plant on the west side can hire 100 workers to do meaningful low skill work for a decent wage. Multiply that by 50 and you got a nice little recovery in Garfield Park. Repeat in Lawndale, Pilsen, Rogers Park, Pullman, etc.
We need to get 25-30 thousands people working. Very few have the skills to be a computer programer (a la 1871.) But nearly all can learn to drive a fork truck, run a hydraulic press or a large paper cutting machine. Most can learn how to operate a CNC machine or a laser/plasma cutter.
It’s time to get this place working. But it can’t happen until the broken and corrupt Illinois government gets out of the way.