Nearly 600,000 men and women work in manufacturing in Illinois today, 21,000 of those workers live right here in Peoria and Tazewell County.

And Illinois Manufacturers’ Association CEO Mark Denzler says this career field is an essential anchor to the state’s economy.

“The direct economic output of Illinois manufacturing totals $304 billion every single year. By the way, for every dollar invested in manufacturing, another $1.89 is created in economic development,” Denzler said.

Denzler says the manufacturing economy on its own is impressive and is even greater than most country’s economies across the world.

“If you took the american manufacturing sector and made it its own country, it would be the 9th largest economy in the world. If you took Illinois’ manufacturing sector and you made it its’ own country, it would be the 63rd largest economy in the world,” Denzler said.

Greater Peoria EDC’s CEO Chris Setti says we need to recognize the strengths of central Illinois and focus on them.

“We’re one of the few communities that have rail, river, road, and an airport. That is something a lot of communities don’t have. We need to be able to continually talk about our advantages. We have some of the lowest electricity prices in the nation,” Setti said.

Denzler says the Illinois General Assembly offered great benefits to the manufacturing sector this spring.

“We had a 5 year extension of the research and development tax credit. R and D is the lifeblood for any manufacturer that’s building new products, improving products. We got a manufacturers’ purchase credit reinstated so starting July 1, manufacturers don’t have to pay sales tax on consumables used in the process,” Denzler said.

But with the new legislation it’s also going to cause some problems for the sector.

“The $15 an hour minimum wage is going to create some issues, we’re opposed to the governor’s call for a graduated income tax and we’ll be fighting that for the next 18 months,” Denzler said.

Denzler says the biggest challenge is that even though the manufacturing sector has nearly 600,000 workers right now, half of those individuals are going to retire in the next 10-15 years. So the sector needs around 20,000 thousand production workers and 3-5 thousand engineers every year for the next decade to remain constant.