Manufacturing emerges as topic on popular state political insider videocast

VILLA PARK – Making things in Illinois was the weekly videocast “Smoke Filled Room” topic, featuring two owners of small manufacturing companies in the Chicago area, a state lawmaker, and a couple of political insiders.

While the manufacturers said they were optimistic about the industry nationwide, they needed to be more hopeful about the industry in Illinois due to increasing taxes, energy costs, and regulations being thrust upon them every legislative session.


What IL manufacturers have to say about the issues

“Last week, I spent hours trying to figure out a new reporting requirement for businesses,” Kurt Sundberg, owner and CEO of Simplex System Controls, said. “Our accountant said they wouldn’t offer that service and referred me to our attorney.”

Sundberg wondered if state lawmakers understand what that means for small businesses that don’t have an accounting or legal department – a fundamental difference between small and midsized manufacturers and large corporations.

Fellow manufacturer Zach Mottl of 70-employee Atlas Tool Works in Lyons, IL, agreed with Sundberg during the hour-long discussion observed by Technology & Manufacturing Association members.

“In Illinois, it’s a patchwork of regulations. One great example is … the vacation and holiday pay schedule. The city of Chicago now has its own program that they put into law. Cook County has its program, and the state of Illinois has its own,” Mottl said.

“We want a competitive environment to attract workers – we have a skilled workforce shortage – so we’re doing everything we can to attract people. We want a competitive PTO (paid time off) package, but it’s a nightmare when you have so many different programs. We make changes, and that adds costs,” Mottl said.

Why feature manufacturing on Smoke Filled Room? 

That frustration voiced was just one during the conversation led by Cor Strategies’ Collin Corbett. The topics then moved to how international trade affects US manufacturing, the challenges of finding skilled workers, possible solutions for the migrant dilemma, and other critical state-related issues.

Corbett told that he invited manufacturers to discuss the topic because in his work with candidates and elected officials, the importance of manufacturing rarely is understood by the public.
“This discussion was critical, because we’ve found our audience of state and local influencers throughout the state is woefully unaware of the world of manufacturing. Even most of those who are business-aligned haven’t interacted with or experienced manufacturing,” he said. “Considering these are the individuals setting public policy, this is a problem. We wanted to help expose them to the unique needs and approach of manufacturers.”
Corbett said the conversation on the Smoke Filled Room broadcast was enlightening to him as well. 
“Every time I work with TMA and manufacturers I learn something new. From the importance of fair trade policies to the need to reduce and streamline regulations, I once again walked out of this discussion better prepared to advocate for our manufacturers,” Corbett said. “Most eye-opening for me was the alarmingly high percentage of materials for our generic drugs that are sourced from China, something the public absolutely should be more aware of.”

What one lawmaker had to say about Illinois and manufacturing 

 State Rep. Dan Ugaste (R-St Charles) joined this particular Smoke Filled Room edition in the second half, after leaving the Capitol earlier in the afternoon.

Ugaste, the Republican chairman of TMA’s Small and Midsized Manufacturers (SaMM) Caucus, shared his thoughts on possible positive legislative developments this year.

“What we can do is elect more people who think in the way that what we need is business…what we need is people going to Springfield who will come up with ways actually to help our economy grow, which will, in turn, help the citizens of Illinois,” Ugaste said.

“We know we need to get things done; we know things have to change,” he said.

And despite an ongoing debate over the state’s economic numbers, it’s pretty clear that Illinois should be growing at a different rate than it is, Ugaste said.

TMA comments on the importance of adding manufacturing to the public dialogue

TMA Executive Vice-President Dennis LaComb said the opportunity to share TMA members’ experiences with the public was crucial for Illinois’ manufacturing future.

“TMA is actively moving forward to engage state lawmakers and the public in conversations about small and midsize manufacturing in Illinois,” LaComb said. 

“The more lawmakers know about the challenges our members face, along with their contributions to the economy, families, and communities, the wiser they’ll be in developing public policy or reducing regulations that hinder the industry’s growth.”

Rich Carter of Cor Strategies, the fifth person on the Smoke Filled Room panel,  is a key member of the TMA Advocacy Team serving TMA membership. 

The hour-long discussion that was actually held in a very smoke-filled room at the 8 to 8 Cigar Lounge in Villa Park is available for viewing on YouTube and Spotify: