A manufacturing education group is asking for $3 million in the state’s budget to help companies retool and refine their operations. The Peoria-based Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center needs the money to leverage up to $4.5 million in federal grants, said Tucker Kennedy, IMEC vice president of marketing and public relations. The state funding, plus investments from the private sector, allows IMEC to work with companies to invest in efficiency and cost-cutting initiatives.

A manufacturing education group is asking for $3 million in the state’s budget to help companies retool and refine their operations.


The Peoria-based Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center needs the money to leverage up to $4.5 million in federal grants, said Tucker Kennedy, IMEC vice president of marketing and public relations. The state funding, plus investments from the private sector, allows IMEC to work with companies to invest in efficiency and cost-cutting initiatives.


“It’s expensive to get to these companies, to diagnose what their needs are,” he said. “Once we’re able to persuade a company to invest in the improvements, it’s very much a series of activities that (help) a company be more efficient, be more productive, cut their costs, create and build strategies to grow top-line revenue and do other things that enable them to thrive.”


Since its inception in 1996, about 1,900 companies have called on IMEC for assistance, according to the group’s Web site. Local firms to use their services include Eclipse, Aqua Aerobics, Quality Machining Center and Haldex Hydraulic Systems, which recently announced the addition of production and 30 jobs to its Rockford facility.


Brian Nelson, senior vice president at Haldex, recently told a state House of Representatives bipartisan job creation task force that IMEC’s assistance was essential to helping the company make the improvements necessary to get the production line moved to Rockford from its sister plant in North Carolina.


“Large companies have access to these types of resources,” he said. “The smaller companies cannot make them alone. IMEC fills this gap with hands-on assistance.”


Kennedy said IMEC was last in the state budget two years ago, when then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich vetoed a $1 million line-item appropriation for the agency. IMEC never made an appearance in last year’s budget, but Kennedy said he’s hopeful Gov. Pat Quinn will include the group in his fiscal plans.


“We will be disappointed if we’re not in the budget, but we won’t be packing up our toys and going home,” he said. “It’s a long process. That’s where you count on your district legislators to say this is a program that delivers results ... and go to bat for you.”


Sean F. Driscoll can be reached at (815) 987-1346 or sdriscoll@rrstar.com.