Left to right ETHS teacher Jonathan Lawrence with students Jackson Thoren, Alex Stuart, Erin McKearnan, Matteo Brucato, Christopher Ramirez and Branden Miller.

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Evanston’s manufacturing district is so clean and quiet that many who drive past the area in the southwest corner of the City may not realize the reach of the companies – fewer than 10 – into national and international commerce.

A tour of the area on Oct. 3, Manufacturing Day in Evanston, highlighted manufacturing as a thriving industry in Illinois and gave visitors an inside look into several companies in southwest Evanston: IRMCO (water-based lubricants), Thermal Laminating (pouch laminating machines), Ward Manufacturing (metal stamping), Pneufast (collated nails and staples for the construction market), Allegra Marketing, Print & Signs (printing, bindery and signage), Collins Brothers (barware, cocktail mixes, liquor and wine accessories and novelties) and  Benvenuti and Stein (custom design/build high-end kitchens, woodwork).

 “You’re in the middle of a chemical factory,” Jeff Jeffrey, CEO of IRMCO, told the gathering of some 100 persons as he pointed out the lack of chemical odors.
“IRMCO’s technology is used to supply high-tech products to 35 countries from this quiet, little manufacturing company.” Founded in 1914, the company “not only shares a birthday with Wrigley Field, we have the same ivy,” he added.

Mr. Jeffrey said his father championed manufacturing and the “service economy is a mirage. … We’ll survive if we have a thriving manufacturing [base].”

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and State Representative Robyn Gabel spoke of the need to ensure that high school students receive sufficient training and education so they can attain post-secondary education or enter the job market straight out of high school.  

Information from the U.S. Census Bureau showed that Illinois manufacturers created 16,470 new jobs in the third quarter of 2011.

Mr. Jeffrey said, “I want everyone to leave here thinking, ‘Manufacturing is cool.’”

Manufacturing Day was sponsored by the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA), the U.S. Commerce Department’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), Wisconsin MEP (WMEP) and Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center (IMEC). MEP is part of DOC’s National Institute of Standards and Technology.

ETHS Advanced Manufacturing Class

Students in Evanston Township High School’s 2 Manufacturing CIM course, taught by Jonathan Lawrence, learn several sophisticated means of computer programming. In the FUSE program, offered after school twice a week, Northwestern University students design projects and experiments for the high school students.Recently Northwestern University opened a satellite office of its STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education program at ETHS, opening a door for ETHS students into the heady world of STEM theory and education there.Several of the 2 Manufacturing students already have post-graduation plans. Erin McKearnan plans to study electrical engineering in college, and Matteo Brucato plans to study biomedical engineering. Christopher Ramirez plans to study electrical engineering in Mexico and find ways to bring electricity to poor areas of that country.

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...