Industry Clusters

Industry Clusters

ON TO 2050 continues CMAP’s focus on industry clusters as a framework for understanding the regional economy and organizing policies and investments to bolster broad economic growth. An industry cluster is a group of firms and related stakeholders that gain productive advantages from operating in close proximity -- such as deeper labor pools, better access to customers and suppliers, knowledge spillovers, and other economies of scale. Regional efforts can address clusters’ shared, sector-specific challenges such as the steepening competition from globalization and the accelerating pace of technological and market changes.

The makeup of our regional economy -- in particular, the industries and occupations -- has significant implications for future economic growth and opportunity. Sustaining broad prosperity depends on improving the competitiveness, productivity, and inclusiveness of regional assets in light of both anticipated and unforeseen economic shifts. As highlighted in an ON TO 2050 snapshot report (PDF), metropolitan Chicago has diverse areas of industrial strength, many of which have faced significant headwinds since 2001. A more detailed understanding of our specialized clusters can help to inform decisions on transportation, land use, economic and workforce development, and local technical assistance. Building on momentum from the private sector, CMAP’s research aims to serve as a basis for convening industry leadership and developing opportunities for high-impact, cross-cutting collaboration.

Drill-down reports

Beginning in 2012, CMAP has developed a series of “drill-down” studies to understand the characteristics and performance of major industry clusters in metropolitan Chicago. These reports have assessed the strength of the region’s freight and manufacturing clusters, focusing on strategies to support their innovation, workforce, and infrastructure. A subsequent report (PDF) has examined the powerful “freight-manufacturing nexus,” which offers the region distinct competitive advantages in transforming manufacturing inputs into final products.

Sub-regional analysis

Building on previous drill-down studies, CMAP released a 2014 sub-regional analysis of communities near O’Hare International Airport, which has one of the region’s strongest concentrations of freight and manufacturing activity. The report outlines how local conditions and multijurisdictional initiatives support the competitiveness of key industry clusters. Continued industrial success often depends on local collaboration in workforce development, stormwater management, redevelopment planning, and improved truck freight routing and infrastructure.

Supply chains

As one of the nation’s centers for global commerce, metropolitan Chicago is a hub for the movement of goods on a local, national, and international scale. In 2015, CMAP published a supply chain trends report assessing the flow of goods into and out of the region and exploring factors that drive logistics decisions in the region’s manufacturing clusters. A subsequent 2017 report examined the key characteristics and relationships among industries in the metals supply chain (PDF) and offered several recommendations for building on the cluster’s historic strengths in the region.

To Top

Metropolitan Chicago's Manufacturing Cluster: A Drill-Down Report on Innovation, Workforce, and Infrastructure

Metropolitan Chicago's Freight Cluster: A Drill-Down Report on Infrastructure, Innovation, and Workforce

The Freight-Manufacturing Nexus: Metropolitan Chicago's Built-in Advantage

O'Hare Subregional Freight-Manufacturing Drill-Down Report

Chicago Region Supply Chain Trends and Trading Partners

Metals Supply Chain

Regional Economy and Clusters: Building on our strengths

Industry Clusters Updates


April 26, 2016

Commute trends of CMAP region freight and manufacturing workers

Metropolitan Chicago's workforce is one of the most important factors in a strong regional economy.  An integral element -- regional workforce mobility, measured in this Policy Update by comm...

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May 21, 2015

Population change and geographic mobility in the CMAP region

A Policy Update assesses trends in U.S. Census data on migration and population change in our region and discusses their implications.

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May 01, 2015

Intermodalism -- Metropolitan Chicago's Built-In Economic Advantage

CMAP's regional economic indicators microsite features key measures of metropolitan Chicago's economy and, where applicable, compares these measures to peer metropolitan areas.  The mi...

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March 04, 2015

Searching for Evidence of a Skills Gap in Manufacturing

New Policy Update looks at quantitative labor market data to determine the extent of the manufacturing skills gap in metropolitan Chicago.

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