CHICAGO – Delivering on his promise to invest in advanced manufacturing and technology in the Rock River Valley, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today awarded $1.6 million in Opportunity Returns funding for the EIGERlab, a research and development center with best-in-the-world research tools to drive Illinois' manufacturing renewal and future prosperity. The investment allows EIGERlab to purchase critical equipment that will help create more than 20 new jobs and add hundreds and hundreds more down the line.
"Opportunity Returns is about investing in the region’s competitive advantages and unleashing its economic potential. This creative initiative represents the dawn of a new era for manufacturing in Rockford and throughout the region. The EIGERlab will pioneer some of the most advanced manufacturing technologies in the world, creating new opportunities and jobs in an industry that continues to be vitally important to our working families in the Rock River Valley and across the state," Gov. Blagojevich said.
The EIGERlab is designed to function as a research and development center that will help the Rockford area grow new businesses in emerging fields of manufacturing technology and help spawn new technology-based businesses. Combining mechanical and industrial engineering expertise from prominent research institutions with engineers and technicians from area companies, the lab’s goal is to develop new manufacturing technologies and then convert these technologies into new companies and jobs by demonstrating their effectiveness to the U.S. Department of Defense and potential commercial users in the region.
EIGERlab partners include Northern Illinois University, Rock Valley College, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern University, Alion Science and Technology, City of Rockford, Rockford Area Economic Development Council, Growth Dimensions, Illinois Technology Development Alliance, Manufacturers’ Alliance of the Rock River Valley (MARRV), Rockford Area Ventures, TECHWORKS/Abilities Center and numerous private manufacturers.
EIGERlab is more than just a research facility. It also houses business incubator space that is home to technology firms that are expected to create 220 jobs over the next two years, as well as resources for advanced-manufacturing education and workforce development programs. EIGERlab houses the Rock River Valley Entrepreneurship Center, which was launched and funded by Gov. Blagojevich as another important tool to grow the economy and create more jobs.
"By making this important investment, Gov. Blagojevich understands that the new economy is blossoming in Rockford thanks to the EIGERlab, which is an innovative public-private partnership that is going to nurture high-tech businesses and create more good jobs," Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey said.
Northern Illinois University is working at the EIGERlab with area public schools to provide pre-professional awareness programs for students and related teacher-training activities.
"Innovation and enterprise are keys for Illinois to win in the global competitive environment. Our model of innovation commercialization at the EIGERlab is unique. Gov. Blagojevich recognizes our impact on the U.S. economy by this investment," said John Lewis, Associate Vice President for University Outreach and Director of the Regional Development Institute.
"EIGERlab is acting as a critical resource helping the Rockford area grow new businesses in emerging fields of manufacturing technology. It plays an instrumental role in the revitalization of enterprise in Northern Illinois and helps spawn new technology-based businesses. By providing this funding for EIGERlab, Gov. Blagojevich continues to show that he’s determined to make the kinds of investments that are most important to the region’s economic vitality and which have the greatest capacity to create more genuine economic opportunity for its people," DCEO Director Jack Lavin said.
Gov. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns regional economic development strategy is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs in Illinois’ history. Since a one-size-fits-all approach to economic development just doesn’t work, the Governor has divided the state into 10 regions – each with a regional team that is empowered and expected to rapidly respond to opportunities and challenges. Opportunity Returns is about tangible, specific actions to make each region more accessible, more marketable, more entrepreneurial and more attractive to businesses. It is about upgrading the skills of the local workforce, increasing the access to capital, opening new markets, improving infrastructure, and creating and retaining jobs. Opportunity Returns is about successfully partnering with companies and communities, both large and small, to help all of Illinois reach its economic potential.