New Report Finds “Good Jobs” Strategies Improved Profitability and Growth for Manufacturing Firms

December 18, 2019

Four-year evaluation of IMEC’s Genesis initiative in Illinois found benefits for businesses and workers

Contact: Dan Lebiednik
Communications Manager
Economic Opportunities Program
The Aspen Institute

Chicago – A new evaluation report from the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program, University of North Carolina, and Portland State University finds that a new workforce-focused approach to advising small and medium-sized manufacturers improved company operations and productivity, yielding benefits for both workers and businesses.

The report is an evaluation of the Genesis initiative conducted by IMEC, an official representative of the US Department of Commerce’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) network, which is a public-private partnership that offers consulting services to US manufacturers to support their growth and competitiveness.

IMEC developed and implemented a new approach to its work that included an intentional and comprehensive focus on workforce practices as part of strategic planning, operations analysis, and product improvement advising. The goal was to improve business success and enhance job quality at the firms it worked within the Chicago region.

Twenty-two manufacturers participated in the initiative and saw increased sales, cost savings, higher wages, and lower turnover that they attributed to their work with IMEC. Key findings include:

  • 55% of participating businesses reported increases in sales, compared to 37% of non-Genesis companies that IMEC worked with.
  • 71% of participating businesses reported cost savings, compared to 47% of non-Genesis companies that IMEC worked with.
  • Average annual earnings for workers increased by 12% in real, inflation-adjusted terms from 2014-2017.
  • Average worker turnover rates declined from 5.5% in 2015 to 4.2% in 2017.

“We’ve long held the view that good jobs are good business, and this report shows how businesses and workers can succeed together,” said Maureen Conway, Vice President for Policy Programs at the Aspen Institute and Executive Director of the Economic Opportunities Program. “When workers have opportunities to grow and be heard, businesses can be more productive, more efficient, safer, and ultimately more profitable.”

The report details the substantial organizational change and staff development IMEC underwent to successfully adopt this approach to working with businesses.

The report also provides a series of considerations for other manufacturing extension partnerships looking to implement similar initiatives and for funders and policymakers seeking to support similar programs in their communities.

“The Genesis initiative shows how a focus on integrating workforce practices as part of our strategic advising can help MEPs’ achieve their mission of supporting the growth and competitiveness of manufacturers across the country,” said David Boulay, Ph.D., President at IMEC. “We’re excited to share what we learned from this work to help strengthen the manufacturing sector and provide good jobs for more workers in America.”

To view the full report and supporting information, please visit


The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program advances strategies, policies, and ideas to help low- and moderate-income people thrive in a changing economy. We recognize that race, gender, and place intersect with and intensify the challenge of economic inequality and we address these dynamics by advancing an inclusive vision of economic justice. For over 25 years, EOP has focused on expanding individuals’ opportunities to connect to quality work, start businesses, and build economic stability that provides the freedom to pursue opportunity. For more information, visit

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

View Comments