At first glance, here’s what it means:
It’s a big deal, all right. The Digital Manufacturing and Design Institute, backed by $70 million in federal money, is to be an idea factory for advanced manufacturing. It could make Chicago a global center for industrial research and restore the city’s status as a global center of manufacturing.
But this is not to say that Chicago is about to be, once again, the City of the Big Shoulders. Its days of powerhouse mass manufacturing are over. The institute should spin off new companies, create good jobs, bring in serious money and contribute to the city’s wealth through exports. But the jobs that were lost when the smokestack industries closed aren’t coming back.