As seen in Impakter – When we think of sustainability, we conjure up images of electric cars, lab-grown meats, recycling plants, and solar panels. Too often we ignore the economic side of sustainability. It’s easier for a city to make investments in efficiency and reducing environmental impact when industries are booming, jobless rates are low, and taxes are being paid. Take Illinois as an example, from 2001 to 2016, the state lost 30% of its manufacturing jobs. For the state’s largest city, Chicago, manufacturing still ranks as the second-largest industry behind social services and is third in the nation behind Los Angeles and New York in terms of manufacturing exports. This is where mHUB comes in. 

First, let’s take a step back and ask: How do you keep an industry like manufacturing alive in a tech-focused global economy? The answer, according to the CEO and Co-Founder of the nation’s largest manufacturing incubator mHUB, Haven Allen, is to create an environment that embraces manufacturing innovation and then invest in their success.

Just a few weeks ago, Chicago-based mHUB announced that they are raising $15 million in seed fund and plans to launch an accelerator program for 60 hardware business creating physical products. The group has already received the first $300,000 in grant money from the U.S. Department of Commerce through the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Regional Innovation Strategies Competition. 

The group was one of 44 organizations to receive a piece of the $23 million total investment from the EDA. In the accelerator program, each startup will receive $75,000 in cash, $100,000 in product development resources, and the ability to earn up to $400,000 in convertible notes in exchange for 5 percent equity. They will also be paired up with a local investor mentor to help them engage with venture capitalists and spark relationships with potential local partners. 

“People don’t think of Chicago as a giant manufacturing hub because we don’t have one dominating manufacturing industry,” Allen said, “we are 9 almost perfect sliced pies of everything from metal fabrication, electronics, plastics, healthcare tech, and so on.”

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