Luis is proud of Langly Works, a family-run glass manufacturing operation that goes back decades. He runs two warehouses and a small plant that produces custom glass for new homes and commercial buildings. Things were looking up when he took over the business in 2009 from his father.
But a troubled economy and shortage of skilled labor are pain points that he can’t seem to overcome.“Our business is very specialized. It requires workers who have gone through at least 12 months of training in a trade school before they step foot on our floor. That’s really tough to find these days,” he says.
His original growth plan was to open up a second plant closer to Chicago. That’s now stalled because orders are slowing, and the workforce he has is just enough to handle those. He dreams of the days when his father could take days off and spend time with his family with the security of knowing that the plant was running smoothly.
Those days are gone. A father of three, Luis wakes up with the sun and often doesn’t return until the early evening. Because there is a lack of quality pre-kindergarten in the area, his wife stays home with their children, making him the sole provider.
He hoped his company could join other light manufacturing operations in the area to pool resources, but one by one, they are either closing or moving out of town. There just isn’t the demand to improve the intermodal facilities in the area or get business-level internet to make connecting with clients easier.
Nevertheless, Luis is committed to making things work. He hopes the economy will improve, but beyond that, he’s hoping for other businesses to discover the main advantage of the area: low overhead cost, primarily.
“We just need better workers. But how do we get them to move here? There should be some sort of long-term plan to build this place up as a manufacturing hub that’s more cost-efficient than the bigger cities,” he says.