Digital Manufacturing Plant Gives Rahm, Quinn Plenty to Smile About

Mayor, governor celebrate winning project backed by $70 million in federal money

In Chicago, $320 million ain’t nothing to sneeze at. Especially in an election year.

That’s how much bacon the Mayor Emanuel, Gov. Pat Quinn and Sen. Dick Durbin are bringing home this week, as they celebrate news that Chicago has won the bid for a digital manufacturing institute backed by $70 million in federal money and another $250 million in private and other government funding.

The decision will be formally announced Tuesday by President Obama. Two manufacturing institutes will be named, one in Detroit that focuses on lightweight metals while Chicago focuses on digital manufacturing and design.

The deal was in the works for a while, but that doesn't make its arrival any less sweeter. The city was up against several other regions in the country for the award, with the White House saying some 41 companies, 23 universities and labs and other organizations were involved in the consortium that won the competition.

The news is particularly critical for Chicago and it’s still somewhat wobbly economic base. Despite all of the city’s pronouncements and self-image as a place that can get by tough times because of a diverse economy that doesn't rely on any one sector, manufacturing still matters in this town.

And an institute backed by government money that works to move the industry forward into the next century can only help cement Chicago’s global reputation as a place to do business when that business is manufacturing and industry.

But for Quinn and Emanuel, the news goes deeper than that. In fact, it’s exactly the kind of thing a politician—especially one due to face voters in the next year or so—lives for.

You can tell by the veritable crowing Quinn used in his press release touting the award, which, if you didn't know any better, made the governor seem almost single-handedly responsible for the deal coming through.

"This announcement is part of my vision to make Illinois the capital of high-tech manufacturing and provides more proof we are making a comeback," Governor Quinn said. "After I made advanced manufacturing a priority in my 2013 State of the State, we aggressively pursued this opportunity for high-tech manufacturing and innovation for Illinois. My favorite words are made in America and made in Illinois, and this partnership will create high-tech manufacturing jobs across both our state and nation for years to come."

For Rahm’s part, the tell was buried in a Chicago Tribune piece on the announcement:

Emanuel has been celebrating privately for a few days.

“Remember when I did a press conference the other day and people were going, ‘Why is the mayor so giddy?’” Emanuel said. “.... This answers that question.”

Outside of direct charges of corruption or personal moral failings, the worst thing a political challenger can say about an incumbent is that they fail to get things done.

Or that they get things done, but only for the political insiders they favor.

On the campaign trail and elsewhere, Quinn’s been accused of the former, while the mayor’s been skewered many times for the latter.

This week, both Emanuel and Quinn can stand a little bit taller, believing their challengers' charges will ring just that much more hollow come Election Day.

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