Building Partnerships. Creating Futures.



Dan Swinney

Executive Director / (773) 278-5418

Dan founded the Manufacturing Renaissance (MR) in 1982 in response to the thousands of manufacturing plant closings in the Chicago area. Prior to founding MR, Dan worked for 13 years as a machinist in the Chicago area. He organized Steelworker Local 8787 at G+W Taylor Forge in Cicero, Illinois and served as Vice President. Taylor Forge closed in 1983.  MR is a not-for-profit consulting and research organization that specializes in developing innovative and effective approaches to community development, advanced manufacturing, and education.

Dan directs the Chicagoland Manufacturing Renaissance Council—a regional partnership that brings together the top leadership of the Chicago Federation of Labor, Chicago’s city government, educators, the business community, and community-based organizations. On behalf of the CMRC, Dan founded a public high school in Chicago—Austin Polytechnical Academy (now called Austin College & Career Academy)—in 2007. This school was designed to prepare the next generation of leaders in advanced manufacturing and focuses on careers in high tech production, management, ownership, as well as careers related to manufacturing outside the company. MR’s work at Austin Polytech led to the development of what we now call the Manufacturing Connect program which now serves students in Austin College & Career Academy.

Dan went to the University of Wisconsin, graduating with a B.A. in history in 1967. He writes and speaks regularly for manufacturing trade associations, universities and colleges, community development networks, unions, and others interested in promoting advanced manufacturing and its intersection with public interests domestically and internationally. Dan recently wrote an article for The Bridge, the journal of the National Academy of Engineering, titled Balancing Innovation in Technology with Social Inclusion: The 2nd Industrial Revolution.


David Robinson

Communications Director / (773) 278-5418

Mr. Robinson brings a unique blend of skills and experiences to the MR team. In the early nineteen eighties, he was a noted journalist at the Detroit News, United Press International (UPI), the Agenda magazine, and The Black Press Review. After the historic election of the late Mayor Harold Washington, Robinson was recruited by the legendary Commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Economic Development, Rob Meir, to help explore innovative community workforce and micro-business development systems. His groundbreaking work in community-based recycling resulted in an appointment as the city’s first Recycling Coordinator, where he pioneered state-of-the-art municipal recycling, environmental and solid waste management systems nationwide.

After serving under four mayors, Robinson co-founded SpherePR group, a full-service public affairs and communications firm in Chicago where he guided scores of political, corporate, and industrial media and public outreach campaigns. Years later, he returned to his community development roots, teaming with the late Henry L. English as the Communications Director/Sr. Program Officer of the Black United Fund of Illinois. While there, Robinson played a leading role in designing and implementing numerous initiatives including the Safe Passage School Safety program now in use citywide by the Chicago Public School system; the Construction Trades Pre-Apprenticeship Program which prepared community members for careers in the construction trades; several social entrepreneur business models; and a service and outreach-driven violence abatement program that Chicago Police brass credited with reducing violent crime in the target area by 33 percent.

Robinson is a proud Morehouse College man with credentials from a DePaul University Egan center executive management seminar series. He is also a certified conflict resolution specialist and holds a TV studio production certificate from CANTV. Robinson tries to stay in shape practicing martial arts, golfing, and coaching little league baseball. He enjoys collecting vintage vinyl albums, die-cast vehicles and sports trading cards. He also writes children’s stories, film scripts, and short stories. He has co-authored a book on blacks and international affairs which will be published in the spring of 2017. Robinson is divorced and has three adult children all living on the west coast.

Erica Swinney Staley

Program Director / (773) 278-5418

Since 2008, Erica has served as Program Director for Manufacturing Renaissance (MR) and has worked on a variety of community development initiatives in the Austin community on the west side of Chicago. Her most prominent role is developing and running the Manufacturing Connect program serving high school students at Austin College and Career Academy (formerly Austin Polytechnical Academy), a Chicago Public School. Manufacturing Connect is a community development initiative that links schools, youth and young adults, to the broader economic and workforce development landscape. Erica developed this program through establishing and navigating a variety of collaborations with educators, over 90 manufacturing companies and community agencies to help participants start and sustain careers in manufacturing.

Through Manufacturing Connect, Austin youth have had nearly 300 paid work experiences in manufacturing earning collectively over $290,000 in wages and have earned over 290 industry credentials. She also worked serving youth directly through a variety of innovative work-readiness and leadership skills development initiatives including: a student-run start-up manufacturing business, Mech Creations; the EcoCrew21 club; an intellectual property rights mock trial program in which students earned collectively over $150,000 in tuition waiver awards to John Marshall Law School, leading an international trip for students to visit Mondragon, Spain and starting a robotics team. Erica also has been one of the lead grant writers and program developers for the organization, including playing a lead role in helping MR earn a competitive, multi-year grant from the U.S. Department of Labor in 2014 to and the Violence Prevention grant through Cook County in 2016 to invest in west side youth and young adults.

Erica, daughter of Dan and Caroline Swinney, was born and raised in the Humboldt Park and Logan Square neighborhoods in Chicago and graduated from Whitney M. Young High School. After completing her B.A. degree at the University of California at Berkeley she served two years in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and eighteen months in Americorps. She later earned her M.A. degree in Ecology from San Francisco State University. Before joining Manufacturing Renaissance, Erica worked in California serving low-income, people of color communities as an organizer and project manager engaging youth and grassroots leadership to address environmental, social, and economic justice issues.

Leslye Long

Assistant Program Director and Mentoring Coordinator / (773) 534-6326

Leslye Long is a native Chicagoan who has provided mentor program development to youth and adults throughout Chicago-land communities for almost 16 years. She is a graduate from Columbia College Chicago and enjoys incorporating organized creativity and life skills into her program designs. Leslye and her husband Steve have been married 13 years and they live in the Hyde Park Community with their two cats: Champ and Princess Helga. During her spare time she enjoys self-improvement activities and teaching Empowerment Art Workshops at the University of Chicago’s Logan Art Center.

Henrina ‘Dee Dee’ Jones

Industry Coordinator / (773) 534-6326

Dee Dee is responsible for recruiting manufacturing companies for field trips, job shadowing experiences, internships and career opportunities, as well as prepare students for careers in manufacturing. She has recruited for various manufacturing companies in multiple industries for various types of positions for over 15 years. She also worked as an advisor for manufacturing companies on current trends, labor market information, workforce programs and funding and connected companies to partner agencies for additional resources. She is a graduate from Lewis University with a B.A. in Business Administration and MMS NIMS Credential holder.

Pablo Varela

NIMS Machining Instructor / (773) 534-6326

Pablo Varela brings over 25 years of advanced manufacturing experience to Manufacturing Renaissance. He has been engaged in Chicago’s workforce development community since 2003, working with organizations dedicated to securing the readiness and competitiveness of America’s manufacturing workforce. He began his career in 1990 as a machinist and metallurgist with Toshiba Tungaloy, where he was sent on assignment to Japan to learn innovative manufacturing techniques and managerial methods currently utilized by today’s world class manufacturers. In 1997, he was hired by Honeywell Aerospace where he worked with exotic metals and the most advanced CNC machine tools. Pablo now teaches dual-credit, advanced manufacturing courses accredited by the National Institute for Metal Working Skills at Austin College and Career Academy (formerly Austin Polytechnical Academy) in the West side of Chicago where over 225 high school students and adults have earned over 325 NIMS credentials as a result of his instruction and training. His students have also won first place awards and recognition for their performance using CNC machines in SkillsUSA’s statewide and the Tooling and Manufacturers Association’s regional competitions.

Veronica Buenrostro

Accountant / Office Manager / (773) 278 5418 ext 25

Veronica joined Manufacturing Renaissance in March 2016,bringing over 10 years of accounting and 15 years of office management experience to Manufacturing Renaissance. Throughout her career, she has worked for several non-profits, including the Mujeres Latina en Accion. She holds a M.B.A from National Louis University, and a B.A in Business Administration, with a concentration in Accounting from the Robert Morris University.

Seth El-Jamal

Young Manufacturers Association Coordinator / (773) 534-6326

Seth has been with Manufacturing Renaissance since 2013. He has worked for fifteen years in youth program development, community outreach, and case management on the West Side of Chicago. He holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services and has focused his career on youth development and collaborative partnerships between schools and not-for profit organizations. He is passionate about empowering young people to take advantage of the resources offered to them in their schools and communities. He has focused his thirteen-year career on creating safe, valid and productive mentoring programs for under-served youth in Chicago communities.

Lucia De Leon-Scott

Program Assistant and Parent Coordinator / (773) 534-6326

Lucu has been the Program Assistant for the Manufacturing Connect program since 2010. She first learned about Austin Polytech in 2008, when she was looking for a high school for her eldest daughter. She came to the open house and immediately loved the program and the opportunities that students would be able to learn about manufacturing and engineering. Lucy has been involved with the school and program for nearly 7 years, and has served as the Local School Council chairperson for 6 of those years. Before joining Manufacturing Renaissance, she worked as a community nutritionist for the University of Illinois Extension, providing food demonstrations and workshops on nutrition for low-income families throughout the west side of Chicago.Lucy grew up and lives on the west side of Chicago.


Stran’Ja Burge

Program Assistant / (773) 534-6326

As alum of the first graduating class of Austin Polytechnical Academy in 2011, Stran’Ja now works as the Program Assistant for the M3C and Young Manufacturers Association programs. As an Austin Polytech student she excelled in the Manufacturing Connect program and became a student ambassador. She earned three credentials from the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS): Materials, Measurement and Safety, CNC Turning Operator, CNC Milling Operator. Stran’Ja grew up and currently lives in the Austin community and she has dedicated herself to serving as a positive influence and mentor for the students at Austin College & Career Academy and in the community at large.

Georgia Rae Lasio

Executive Assistant / (773) 278-5418 ext 13

Georgia joined Manufacturing Renaissance in December 2016, after completing her M.A. in Human Right Studies, at Columbia University in the City of New York. As Dan’s executive assistant, Georgia helps coordinating the daily operations of the organization in order to guarantee smooth and steady workflow. Originally from Milan, Italy, she earned her B.A from Leiden University College The Hague, in the Netherlands. After graduating, she did a six month internship in Brussels, at No Peace Without Justice, a nonprofit that focuses on promoting international law, human rights and democracy in the Middle East. Georgia hopes to implement her knowledge and passion into developing policies that have real impact on communities.