Anyone who knows me know I love a good nerd-fest. By that I mean some kind of festival of ideas. In Chicago, two of my favorites are Chicago Ideas Week and the Chicago Humanities Festival, both of which used to last only a week but now extend throughout the year. In addition to lectures and panels, Ideas Week offers “labs” – tours and hands-on events throughout the city. I jumped at the chance to attend an Urban Manufacturing Tour. Right in my (almost) backyard near downtown Chicago is the Industrial Council of Northwest Chicago. It was founded in 1967 as an economic development agency and has been operating a 400,000 square foot urban manufacturing incubator since 1980. Today, the hottest food and tech neighborhoods in Chicago are pushing west toward this enclave of manufacturing entrepreneurs. Our tour featured a custom printing operation, a candy science company’s new laboratory space, and a family operated distillery. This is also the home of Farmers’ Fridge, Quari artisan ice, and many others. In addition to the incubator, the Industrial Council of Northwest Chicago operates a Small Business Development Center, offers recruitment and HR services, has a strong program of business seminars and entrepreneurship education, and advocates for business interests in this Industrial Corridor.
Sometimes we forget that some “new” ideas have been around for a long time and some “old” cities have something to teach us.
Oh, and by the way, on the same day I was able to here a panel of national experts discuss the business of cannabis, play with a great mapping app at Here Technologies, and listen to a discussion of Influence – is it our greatest currency. Not bad for about $40.