Building Partnerships. Creating Futures.

Research and Action on Chicago’s West Side

Manufacturing Renaissance was founded as the Midwest Center for Labor Research in 1983 by local union and community leaders, in reaction to the wave of plant closings and the devastating impact this had on workers and local communities. Our goal was to provide solid research and analysis to unions, communities, and local government in order to help understand the causes of the problems they faced and to find creative and effective solutions.

In the early 1990s, Manufacturing Renaissance was retained by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 738 and the Garfield Austin Interfaith Action Network to investigate layoffs at the Brach’s Confections factory in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. Manufacturing Renaissance published a special report, “A Misadventure in Candy Land” (part 1 and part 2), on the ensuing campaign for an employee buyout of the company. The case illustrates Manufacturing Renaissance’s research finding that as many as 75% of factory and job losses in since the late 1970s could have been averted – along with the corresponding rise in poverty.

Toward an Advanced Manufacturing Renaissance

In 2001, in partnership with the Chicago Federation of Labor, Manufacturing Renaissance authored the study Creating a Manufacturing Career Path System in Cook County, which recognized the growing shift in American manufacturing to making high value-added products, the need for a highly educated and skilled workforce, and the failure of the publicly funded education system to provide such a workforce at all levels of the firm. In 2003, Manufacturing Renaissance authored a follow-up study, The State of Illinois Manufacturing, advancing a plan for dramatic systemic reform in education.

Our in-depth research and proposals for reform served as a catalyst for new partnerships and programs for Manufacturing Renaissance, including the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council, Austin Polytechnical Academy and what we now call the Manufacturing Connect program. Our principal strength has been our strategic vision and our ability to prototype and refine these ideas in the context of particular partnerships and projects. Today Manufacturing Renaissance’s innovative, partnership-based approach is recognized across the country and around the world.

For a deeper look at Manufacturing Renaissance’s research base and evolution, see our key documents.