UIC awarded $2.4 million DOD grant to assist Illinois’ military-dependent communities

The University of Illinois at Chicago has received a $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment to support economic research and resiliency in Illinois’ military-connected communities.

The 18-month grant, led by UIC’s Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement, will back the development and use of an online tool for regional partners and economic development organizations in the Quad Cities, Rockford, Peoria, and Chicago.

The grant marks phase two of the State of Illinois Defense Industry Adjustment Program, also known as the Illinois DIA program, a data-driven initiative to assist communities linked to the defense industry adapt to changes in federal military spending. Phase one was launched in 2015 via a two-year, $5.5 million grant from the Department of Defense to the University of Illinois System.

“Research and scholarship in support of Illinois communities is a key component of our institution’s public mission,” said Michael D. Amiridis, UIC Chancellor. “UIC is proud to team with community partners from across the state to provide them with critical information that will help identify areas of advancement or vulnerability, and shape their economic development strategies for the future.”

The first phase of the project relied on data collection to identify the full scope of defense assets across the state, as well as industries that are reliant on military spending. The second phase will incorporate new partners to help translate the insights gained from the initial phase into meaningful opportunities for companies and the local organizations and economic development stakeholders that support them.

“This grant enables the Voorhees Center, in partnership with regional economic development organizations in defense-intensive regions in Illinois, to provide relevant insights and information, and to facilitate support and services to defense-connected manufacturers and businesses in the state,” said Yittayih Zelalem, co-director of the UIC Voorhees Center.

Phase one partners, the University of Illinois System and Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce, will be joined in phase two by the Chicago Metro Metal Consortium, the Rockford Area Economic Development Council, and the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council.

Partners will have access to the Supply Chain Mapping Tool, an online platform created by the Voorhees Center, which will provide users with real-time data for an informed perspective of the federal military’s manufacturing and supply chain in this part of the country, and help quantify the effect of Department of Defense changes, expansions and cutbacks in these regions.

“The Supply Chain Mapping Tool, which is the first of its kind for Illinois manufacturing, will open the door to many possibilities for growth and opportunities for firms and communities in this state to be even more competitive,” said Janet Smith, co-director of the Voorhees Center.

The Voorhees Center, which is based in the UIC College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, will coordinate and work collaboratively with the partners to outline strategies that address the economic shifts and outcomes experienced in defense-dependent communities.

The second phase of the grant will also continue efforts to bolster the Illinois Defense Network, which is managed by the University of Illinois System to engage stakeholders from industry, government, and academia to develop and implement programs that strengthen Illinois’ defense economy and connect communities through the State of Illinois DIA Program. Established earlier this year, the network will share industry best practices and address critical needs, such as assistance with cybersecurity assessments.