Manufacturing Cluster Drill-Down

Manufacturing Cluster Drill-Down

A Drill-Down Report on Innovation, Workforce, and Infrastructure

Manufacturing has long been a cornerstone of the regional economy, helping metropolitan Chicago become the economic power that it is today. Even in this era of worldwide sourcing, manufacturing remains a vital element of the region's economic health.

CMAP's Manufacturing Drill-Down report explores how manufacturing in metropolitan Chicago has transformed in response to a globalized economy. The report identifies infrastructure, workforce, and innovation challenges and opportunities central to future cluster growth and concludes with clear steps the region can take to support manufacturing in the region. As a part of its research, CMAP developed several tools to illustrate the changing needs of the cluster. Read more in the press release.

Advanced Manufacturing Scorecard

Looking forward, metropolitan Chicago can best compete in the 21st Century economy through manufacturing that capitalizes on regional strengths.  Below, CMAP's Advanced Manufacturing Scorecard ranks the cluster's nine core manufacturing industries across product, process, and people metrics to show which industries best reflect advanced manufacturing characteristics.

Below each industry's scorecard, a second graphic provides a closer look at the occupations within that industry. This graphic builds off the people indicator to illustrate the skills and training levels required for the industry's top 20 occupations. In the left-hand column are data on the size of the workforce and the median salaries for the top five occupations in that industry.

Pharma/Medical Supply

These health sciences manufacturing industries draw on the region's strength in biotech/biomed. Metropolitan Chicago specializes in pharmaceuticals manufacturing and is growing in medical equipment manufacturing.


This industry grouping includes not only computers but other electronics devices like cell phones, audio and visual equipment, and navigational instruments. One of the region's key electronics specializations lay in communication equipment.


Machinery is the largest component of the region's manufacturing core. While the cluster produces less in aerospace and automotive machinery, it maintains one of the nation's leading concentrations in electrical, commercial, and industrial equipment.

Chemicals, Plastics, Rubber

This industry grouping includes two major categories: firms producing chemicals such as paints, pesticides, and petrochemicals, and those manufacturing plastic and rubber products. The region specializes in chemicals and especially plastics, while rubber is a much smaller concentration.

Fabricated Metal

Fabricated metal output includes a wide variety of products ranging from hardware to structural and architectural metals. Fabricated metal goods also often serve as intermediate parts for machinery industries. Metropolitan Chicago is the nation's second largest fabricated metals center.

Paper, Printing

Historically the Chicago region has been one of the nation's centers of paper and printing manufacturing. Though the industry has face employment decline, the region still employees over 40,000 workers in this sector.

Primary (Metal, Nonmetal, Petro/Coal)

Primary manufacturing industries transform raw materials such as stone, coal, or crude petroleum into refined goods. While the Illinois counties of the metropolitan region are less specialized, the greater tri-state area has a large primary metals and petroleum concentration just across the border in northwest Indiana.

Furniture, Apparel, Other

Compared to other manufacturing regions, metropolitan is less specialized in apparel, textile, woodworking, and furniture manufacturing. Regional job loss in these industries has been particularly severe the past decade.

Food, Beverage

Food and beverage industries transform livestock, agriculture, and other raw materials into new products. At the heart of the Midwest's prominent agricultural sector, the Chicago region has long played an important role in food and beverage manufacturing.

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