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Quinn to announce Illinois Manufacturing Lab initiative

Updated: December 13, 2013 12:03AM

A million plastic bottles a week pour out of a Southwest Side factory and now thanks to a new state initiative to help manufacturers — they may come out a little lighter and stronger.

Gov. Pat Quinn will announce details Friday of the Illinois Manufacturing Lab, which will pair manufacturers with the best and brightest University of Illinois experts to help develop new products and improve the ways companies make things.

The program will get $5 million from the state, and is in line to get another $5 million from the university, according to state and U. of I. officials.

Close to 600,000 people work on factory floors across Illinois, but the number of jobs has been declining. The state hopes this program will help companies keep or add more manufacturing jobs, which pay higher-than-average salaries.

Gold Eagle Co., the Southwest Side maker of HEET Gas-Line Antifreeze and other products, is one of 10 initial participating manufacturers in the IML.

Its chemists will work with U. of I. chemists to reformulate the plastic in its bottles to make them lighter and stronger.

Gold Eagle will also get access to the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the U. of I. to perform computer simulations to test the new bottle designs.

The company fills a million plastic bottles a week in its plant at 44th and Kildare and hopes the new bottles will save money and help the environment.

“We hope to make a better stronger bottle with less resin,” said Gold Eagle spokeswoman Jennifer Rook. That will lead to less plastic and cardboard used in shipping and less environmental waste, she said.

At first, IML will only employ an executive director and work out of university and company facilities, but officials envision a physical location in Chicago with manufacturing experts and 3D printers to make rapid prototypes of products.

It may also have incubator space geared to manufacturing startups.

University of Illinois spokesman Tom Hardy said the university board is scheduled to vote Friday on the school’s $5 million contribution to the IML. Quinn initially proposed the IML in his state of the state address in February.

The IML will work in partnership with UI Labs; the university’s National Center for Supercomputing Applications; the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition.


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