The center of U.S. manufacturing

Sector Strengths

  • The Chicago region MSA represents ~2.9% of the US population, but accounts for ~3.3% of manufacturing employment.[1]
  • Compared with the US overall employment, Chicago outperforms in metals-based and chemical & plastic manufacturing.[2]
  • Looking at performance indexed to 2000 employment rates, Chicago outperforms the nation in manufacturing of transportation equipment, and this trend is projected to continue over the next decade.[3]
  • Total manufacturing employment in Chicago is 420,000 and manufacturing output in 2019 was $74.5B, the second largest in the nation, by employment and third, by output.[4]
  • The Chicago metro area has the second highest count of manufacturing business establishments in the US, with 11,968.[5]


  • Chicago is the third largest intermodal system globally, benefiting from 200 million consumers within a 500-mile radius and 30% of North American consumers within a one-day truck drive.[6]
  • Chicago is the nation’s rail hub, with six of the seven Class I railroads operating major terminals, which is the only U.S. gateway where these Class I railroads can interchange traffic.
  • O’Hare is the nation’s second largest port by value, with 6.2% of all US trade.[7]
  • At over 1.2 billion sq ft, Chicago has the largest industrial market in the US by square feet with over 1/3 more inventory than the next largest market (LA).[8]

Talent Pipeline

  • Chicago has the second highest number of supervisors for production and operations in the US, 19,800. Among top metros for this occupation, Chicago has the second lowest cost of labor.  Chicago labor costs for manufacturing supervisors are lower than other metros with traditionally low-cost labor rates, like Dallas and Houston.
  • The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne is one of the top 5 producers of engineering and engineering and engineering technology graduates, with 2942 graduating in 2018-2019.[9]
  • In 2018-2019, 17,732 engineering students graduated in Illinois.[10]


  • Since 2010, over 400 startups working with the manufacturing/hardware industries (as either providers of hardware/devices or software for manufacturers) have been founded in Chicago, having raised $330M in VC funds.[11] Of that 400, 117 utilize advanced manufacturing.[12]
  • In Spring 2020, Chicago incubators and accelerators, mHUB, 1871, and MATTER, launched a collaborative initiative to develop and accelerate technologies to fight the novel coronavirus and in just under two months, more than 300 innovators and frontline experts submitted ideas and technologies for collaboration.[13]
  • Illinois companies invested $9.58B into R&D in 2016, the fifth highest in the US.[14]
  • Illinois received $39.397M in funding from NSF for engineering research, the sixth highest amount in the US. $5.52M of that was awarded to 20 small businesses in Illinois.[15]
  • Illinois universities were awarded $33.82M from NSF for engineering research, the sixth highest amount in the US.[16]