Building Partnerships. Creating Futures.

MfgRen Foundational Publications

  • Building the Bridge to the High Road (2000) Building the Bridge to the High Road is Manufacturing Renaissance executive director Dan Swinney’s ground-breaking book introducing the High Road, a new strategic development vision. Transcending traditional left/right dichotomies, the High Road advances a collaborative framework for leveraging market forces to build a society that is economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable.
  • Creating a Manufacturing Career Path System in Cook County (2001) This study, conducted by Manufacturing Renaissance and the Chicago Federation of Labor for the U.S. Department of Labor, examined the Chicago area’s manufacturing workforce development system and proposed collaborative, systemic solutions for sustaining the region’s economic competitiveness. This report catalyzed the launch of Manufacturing Renaissance’s Manufacturing Renaissance Council (MRC) development model.
  • High Road vs. Low Road Traditional approaches are no longer sufficient, and failure to act can have disastrous consequences. The fork in the road is a choice between the “High Road” and the “Low Road.”
  • The New Chicago School for Community Economic Development (2015) We have created a network called the New Chicago School of Community Economic Development.   It is intentionally in contrast to the internationally known “Chicago School of Economics” centered in the University of Chicago. We seek economic democracy and innovation in the market; an entrepreneurial and strong state that defends the interests of the overwhelming majority of people; and social and political democracy in civil society.  We seek development that is economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable and restorative.

Policy Papers, Articles & Resources

For strategic issues and programs in summary:

  • Manufacturing, Race and Community (2017) Dan Swinney calls for innovation in both manufacturing and social inclusion in this summary of Manufacturing Renaissance’s “Go Big or Go Home” proposal developed for the MacArthur Foundation’s 100andChange grant competition. Although Manufacturing Renaissance did not make the top-ten finalists, the proposal of what a scaled-up system could look like that builds the education, training and economic development infrastructure oriented around both the needs of manufacturing and communities is now supporting the mobilization of a diverse group of stakeholders around this vision for what’s possible for the Chicagoland area.
  • The New Manufacturing Connect Prototype (2016) Dan Swinney describes the new design for Manufacturing Connect as we plan for expansion and replication.
  • Building the Bridge as We Travel (2016) Erica Swinney’s case study on the origins, development, features and impact of the Manufacturing Connect program.  Published in the Journal of School and Society’s issue on exploring the future of vocational education.
  • A History Teacher Who Happened to Teach Manufacturing…And Loved It! (2016) Written by Mr. Kevin Russell, a teacher who works regularly with the Manufacturing Connect program, provides his insights on how vocational education complements college-preparatory education. Published in the Journal of School and Society’s issue on exploring the future of vocational education.
  • Working in a new generation: Youth job creation and employer engagement in urban manufacturing  (2016) Written by Nichola J. Lowe, Julianne Stern, John R. Bryson and Rachel Mulhall. This paper presents a case of Chicago’s Manufacturing Connect program, demonstrating opportunities for providing high school students within high-poverty neighborhoods with the foundational skills and tools to embark on successful manufacturing careers post-graduation. Manufacturing Connect goes well beyond student education and career preparation: it also uses innovative strategies of employer engagement to shift perceptions of inner-city youth and increase employer awareness of their potential contribution to industry innovation and long term survival.
  • Balancing Innovation in Technology with Social Inclusion (2015) A modern-day revolution in manufacturing prioritizes social inclusion, education and workforce development, community development, and environmental restoration through public-private partnerships.
  • The Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing: 2015 and Beyond (2015) A report from the Manufacturing Institute that assesses whether U.S. manufacturing is prepared to meet its talent needs in 2015 and looking into the future.
  • The 2nd Industrial Revolution PowerPoint Presentation (2015) Erica Swinney’s presentation presented at the Union Co-op Symposium on November 14, 2015 in Cincinnati, OH. The presentation is based on the framework posed by Dan Swinney’s concept of the 2nd Industrial Revolution to tell MR’s history, international influences and lessons’ learned, particularly our work fighting plant closures in the 1980s and using employee ownership as a succession strategy to keep manufacturing jobs in Chicago.  This work laid the foundation for our work today with the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council and the Manufacturing Connect program.
  • From Chicago to Buenos Aires: A Reflection on Cooperatives, Movement Building and Systems Thinking (2015) A reflection piece written by Erica Swinney after her trip to Argentina with the Cooperative Charitable Forum to learn about the worker-cooperative movement, including the worker “occupied” factories that emerged as a result of the Argentinian financial crisis in 2001.
  • M3C Program Presentation (2015) Manufacturing Connect staff presentation at the National Career Pathways Network Annual Conference, Dallas, TX, October 29, 2015.  The presentation gives a brief overview of key elements of the Manufacturing Connect program.
  • Manufacturing Connect: Connecting to Careers and College Through Advanced Manufacturing (2014) Manufacturing Connect (MC) is a program of Manufacturing Renaissance, a not-for-profit corporation based in Chicago. Manufacturing Renaissance has a 30 year history of deep engagement with the manufacturing sector. It is recognized internationally for its vision and expertise. Its Manufacturing Connect program was developed in the context of the founding of a public high school—Austin Polytechnical Academy—in the Austin community on Chicago’s far West Side.
  • The Importance of Manufacturing (2011) In 2009 manufacturing directly employed 12.0 million people. The manufacturing sector was the fifth largest employer in the U.S. economy behind only government with 25.0 million workers; health and social services 18.4 million; retail trade 17.3 million and professional scientific and technology services 12.1 million. Direct manufacturing employees made up 7.0% of the 172.4 million US workforce.
  • What is Advanced Manufacturing? (2011) Advanced manufacturing is high productivity, high profit, high wage, technology rich, relatively high value added fabrication of globally competitive products that creates wealth and builds and sustains communities. Of course not every plant meets every criteria embedded in this definition. Advanced manufacturing can best be seen as a set of interrelated practices that naturally go together and support each other. Advanced manufacturers are firms that embrace many, if not all, of these practices.
  • The Polytech Model of Secondary Education A comprehensive overview of Manufacturing Renaissance’s world recognized approach to high school education linked to advanced manufacturing careers, the Polytech model of secondary education.
  • Austin Polytechnical Academy Evaluation Report (2012) Manufacturing Renaissance’s formal evaluation of the Austin Polytech program highlighted strengths and identified areas of improvement to help connect Austin students with college and career opportunities in advanced manufacturing.
  • The American Economy, Manufacturing, and Sustainability Briefing Report (2011) This report summarizes a funders briefing hosted by the Nathan Cummings Foundation in New York City. Speakers included Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution and Garrick Davis of the National Urban League Policy Institute.
  • Austin Polytech: Building the Road as We Travel (2010) A candid assessment of the Austin Polytech Career Program by Dan Swinney, Austin Polytech founder and executive director of Manufacturing Renaissance. This report outlines the Polytech model and presents strategies for enhancing its implementation in Austin.
  • Closing the Gap, Surpassing the Competition: City Colleges of Chicago, Manufacturing, and International Best Practice (2006) describes the rationale and a plan for a bench-marking evaluation of the manufacturing programs offered by the City Colleges of Chicago.  This paper is the result of a yearlong effort by an expert team working in conjunction with City Colleges and other advisers.
  • The State of Illinois Manufacturing (2003) In The State of Illinois Manufacturing, a study commissioned by the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, Manufacturing Renaissance laid out the importance of manufacturing to the state’s economy, outlined the challenges facing Illinois manufacturers at the time, and recommended actions to overcome some of these challenges. The report resulted in the creation of the Chicago MRC.
  • Early Warning Systems (2002) Manufacturing Renaissance’s Early Warning Systems framework was developed in response to rapid deindustrialization throughout the US in the 1980s and 1990s. Manufacturing Renaissance found that as many as 75% of factory and job losses could have been avoided. Early Warning Systems lays out a collaborative approach for disseminating timely and accurate information to enhance businesses’ long-term viability.

International Policy Papers

  • Aspects of Emilia Romagna as an economic development model (2004) The Italian region of Emilia-Romagna and its capital city,Bologna, enjoy economic success; effective, efficient, creative government; a strong civil society; and exceptional standards of livability. It’s easy to be beguiled by this remarkably salubrious place. In particular, economic developers have been attracted to the Emilian flexible manufacturing networks in which small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) both compete and cooperate as the occasion dictates. At the same time most sectors of Emilian industry have managed to be innovative enough to remain competitive in the global market.
  • New Impressions of Emilia Romagna–a Global Leader in Innovative Approaches to Development and Economic Democracy (2005) In the 1940s, the Emilia Romagna region in northern Italy—Bologna is its center—was one of the poorest regions in Europe. Today, according to Bob Williams, of the Van City Capital Corporation in Vancouver: “There are 90,000 manufacturing enterprises in the region, surely one of the highest densities per capita in the world! Small, medium, enterprises (SME’s) predominate. One person in twelve is self-employed or owns a small business. In recent years the region has produced the highest GDP per capita in the country, and it now ranks with the ten best in Europe…2/3 of the citizens of Bologna belong to a co-op…45% of the GDP is produced by co-ops…(and) 85% of the social services in Bologna are delivered by co-ops…”?
  • The Implications of the “Emilian Model” for the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council (2006) If Chicago and Illinois are to lead the world in high performance manufacturing, we have to look to the best examples globally. If we are to compete effectively with the best, we must compare ourselves to, and learn from, the best. So what does the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council (CMRC) have to learn from Emilia-Romagna’s economy?
  • Aspects of Emilia Romagna as an economic development model Revisited (2006) In Aspects of Emilia-Romagna as an Economic Development Model (2004) one of us reviewed recent literature about the economy of Emilia-Romagna and posed some questions that could best be answered by those actively involved in the Emilia-Romagnan economy. We spent a week inEmilia-Romagna in December 2005 attempting to answer those questions. We were fortunate to have lengthy conversations with Paolo Onesti, Director of Demo Center; Walter Conti, CEO of LaCo, former mayor and member of the provincial legislature; Silvano Bertini, Head of Economic Development Polices for the regional government of Emilia-Romagna; and Alessandro Zampagna, Director of Centuria RIT. These people and others were exceptionally generous with their time. All of the observations, ideas and concepts in this paper arose from this visit, and mostly from these long discussions.


  • Intervening with aging owners to save industrial jobs (1989) A study to asses the feasibility of retaining manufacturing jobs in Chicago by matching aging company owners with who need successors with qualified minority and female entrepreneurs as buyers.  The study is driven by the fact that minority workers have suffered disproportionately during Chicago’s decade of rapid deindustrialization and that minority owners account for less than one half of one percent of the region’s manufacturing employment sales. This report presents the results of the first phase which determined the scope of the problem and assess the actual successorship plans of the City’s small and medium-sized family manufacturers. The study also included a national survey of literature and practice on successorship planning assistance for aging owners, particularly programs funded by state agencies and/or involving non-profit organizations.
  • Misadventure in Candyland Part 1 (1994) An economic and social analysis of E.J. Brach Candy company. Manufacturing Renaissance (formerly known as the Midwest Center for Labor Research) was retained by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 738 who represented the production employees at E.J. Brach in Chicago, and the Garfield Austin Interfaith Action Network (GAIN), a coalition of community organizations and churches in the community that surrounded Brach, to produce this paper.
  • Misadventure in Candyland Part 2 (1994) The sequel that continues the documentation and analysis of the crisis that led to the closure of the E.J. Brach in Chicago.
  • Labor Research Review (1982-1996) To a generation of trade union scholars and activists, Manufacturing Renaissance’s Labor Research Review journal was a central forum for analysis, criticism, and strategic thinking on the American labor movement in the late 20th century. The entire contents of Labor Research Review is available online through Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.