IMEC – 228 years in the making!

Posted by Dean Harms on Nov 13, 2019 8:00:00 AM

"There is no purpose, to which public money can be more beneficially applied, than to the acquisition of a new and useful branch of industry; no consideration more valuable than a permanent addition to the general stock of productive labour."
-- Alexander Hamilton, Report on Manufactures, December 5, 1791

IMEC exists to help manufacturing companies drive growth through enterprise excellence that leads to long-term competitiveness, economic and workforce development, and growth within Illinois. Consisting of a team of improvement specialists, they provide relevant tools and techniques that help organizations excel in 6 key areas: Leadership, Strategy, Customer Engagement, Operations, Workforce and Results.

Known for fostering long-term economic and workforce competitiveness for manufacturers, IMEC is the Illinois branch of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) National Network. The MEP is a unique public-private funded organization connected to the US Department of Commerce through NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology. IMEC is further affiliated with 4 Illinois universities, economic development centers and partner organizations across the state. Additionally, IMEC supports the Excellence Recognition Program ( and the Made in Illinois Network (

With 50 full-time staff and an extended, fully vetted network of third party resource providers, IMEC delivers the local expertise with statewide support to not only plan and strategize, but to implement and evaluate the effectiveness of client improvements. In short, they are here to help because results matter – locally, regionally and statewide. Navigating the ever-changing landscape is critical to sustaining a competitive business 

IMPACTS 2018And the results have been impressive. In 2018, IMEC assisted 763 Illinois companies generating over $620 million in economic impact that created over 6,700 jobs. Client reported impacts show nearly a 20:1 return on investment – for every $1 spent, working with IMEC can return $20 to your organization.

So how is this 228 years in the making? Glad you asked…

In 1791, the Secretary of the United States Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, submitted his Report on Manufactures: Communication to the House of Representatives. Hamilton’s report passionately and thoroughly laid out how the United States could gain specific economic advantages by encouraging the growth of manufacturing in the newly formed United States of America. Hamilton asserted that manufacturing would bring the added diversity of employment opportunities with increased productivity (1). Even then, our government saw the need and related value of supporting manufacturing and the overall impact on the economy with manufacturing as a component of economic strength. All from a guy who continues to hang around on the front of a $10 bill.


Fast forward 197 years. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act (Public Law 100-418). This law addressed the diminishing American trade surplus and increasing deficit driven by tariffs placed on American products by foreign countries, and the lack of similar tariffs on imports into the United States. Workers, unions and industry management all called for government action against countries with an unfair advantage (2a). Additional legislation in the bill established the precursors to today’s MEP. The mission supported the transfer of manufacturing technology to improve the productivity and technological capabilities of America’s small manufacturers. By 1996, thanks to changes in funding and program structures, today's MEP was formed (2c).

Today the Manufacturing Extension Partnership has affiliates in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. The MEP develops service offerings to assist and advance the competitiveness of small to medium sized U.S. manufacturers by addressing immediate operational needs, as well as emerging technologies.

And the results have also been impressive. Since 1988, MEP has worked with 94,033 manufacturers, supported $111.3 billion in sales and $18.8 billion in cost savings, and helped clients create and retain 985,317 jobs, based on data collected since 1998 (3).

For every $1.00 of federal investment, the MEP National Network generates $29.50 in new sales growth for manufacturers. For every $1,065 of federal investment, the Network creates or retains one manufacturing job (4). Can I say, “an area where the investment of federal tax dollars has truly provided a substantial ROI for the US.” That’s worthy of a “shout out” to our Congressional leaders for their continued support.

IMEC came into existence in 1996 and has continued the partnership with the MEP Network by sharing the same mission. Today, IMEC continues to meet the industry needs and support manufacturers from “the front door to the backdoor.” Areas for improvement are developed by analyzing an organization’s “current state” and discussing the desired “future state”. The work comes in addressing that “gap” and developing programs to fill that gap. It’s a “Plan. Implement. Excel.” strategy delivered by highly skilled and credentialed staff of industry experts and a fully vetted group of third party resources.

IMEC’s mission continues in supporting local companies by providing solutions or improvements that create a more competitive future, while engaging with the local community organizations and participating in the area economic development. There is a lot of good things going on in manufacturing across Illinois. There is much work yet to do. IMEC is glad to be a part of that effort.

In addition to the plethora of resources available, IMEC recently launched the new Illinois Manufacturing Innovation Voucher program for small and mid-sized manufacturers to invest in R&D and technology adoption. This program will lead to a total investment if $2.5 million in the upcoming year with approximately 50 projects to be completed.

Learn more about the program and see if you qualify:

Dean Harms

Written by Dean Harms

Topics: innovation, operations, partnership, strategy, IMEC Team, MEP Network

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