Archive for ‘News’ Category


Rockford couple hope to knock socks off celebrity judges on ‘Shark Tank’

Sunday, November 15th, 2015

Tracie and Glen Burress will pitch their sockTABs product on the hit ABC show Friday

ROCKFORD — A Rockford couple will swim with celebrity tycoons on the ABC hit show “Shark Tank” on Friday while making a sales pitch that could take their business to the next level.

Tracie and Glen Burress have turned their solution to a vexing laundry problem into an entrepreneurial adventure. In June 2014, the husband-and-wife team won the $5,000 prize for the Stateline FastPitch Competition for local entrepreneurs with sockTABs, a product that’s similar in size to a cuff link and keeps socks together from the hamper to the washer to the dryer so that each one of your socks never loses its “sole” mate.

They flew to Los Angeles in June and taped an episode of “Shark Tank” in hopes of obtaining the financing needed to take sockTABs to the big time. The show has aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of accomplished businesspeople in hopes of winning an investment.

“We’re not allowed to talk about what happens on the episode until after it airs,” Tracie Burress said. “All I can say is that the show is called ‘Shark Tank’ for a reason.”

The Burresses have engaged a California company to manufacture their product, which already has a foot in the door at several local retailers. SockTABs are available in a variety of colors and sold in packs of 24 tabs for $9.99 at and at Crimson Ridge, 735 N. Perryville Road;Porch, 3065 N. Perryville Road; b jones Boutique, 1655 N. Alpine Road; and Tom Harmer Sporting Goods, 6550 E. Riverside Blvd.

Socks play more than a minor role in the city’s history. In 1873, Rockford businessman John Nelson revolutionized the way socks were made when he invented and patented a parallel row knitting machine capable of making a seamless sock. Years later, the beloved sock monkey doll was made from the company’s popular red-heeled socks.

The Burresses developed sockTABs with the help of Northern Illinois University’s EIGERlab, the Rockford-based business incubator at the NIU-Rockford Education Center, 8500 E. State St., where individuals involved in startups and existing businesses develop products and commercialize ideas and have access to design engineering and rapid prototyping services.

Anywhere from 100 to 200 people engage the EIGERlab every year to develop a business plan for their product, manufacture a prototype, finesse a marketing plan or seek advice on how to commercialize their entrepreneurial idea, said marketing coordinator Sherry Pritz.

“People come to EIGERlab from all over the Rockford area and from Wisconsin and Chicago to get help with their business ideas,” Pritz said. “We’re very excited for Tracie and Glen, no matter what happens on the show. Because just the exposure to millions of people who watch Shark Tank — how do you beat that?” Click here for the complete article and photos.

Northern Illinois University celebrates 20 years of collaboration in Rockford

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

Under NIU’s direction, a retooled EIGERlab offers an array of services for entrepreneurs and established businesses

ROCKFORD — Northern Illinois Universitycelebrated the 20th anniversary of its Rockford satellite center Monday with public tours ofEIGERlab, a metaphorical watering hole of business incubation serving entrepreneurs a cocktail of innovation and collaboration.

The university acquired the Rockford-based business incubator in December 2014 and is expanding its offerings to budding entrepreneurs to foster economic growth in the region. The lab is housed at the NIU-Rockford Education Center, 8500 E. State St., which has engaged thousands of students, clients and community members for classes, meetings and special events. EIGERlab helps individuals involved with startups and existing businesses develop products, commercialize ideas and learn new skills. It also offers design engineering and rapid prototyping services.

The university, in recognition of the 20th anniversary, has refashioned the education center library into the “NIU EIGERlab CoWorking Space” to further foster business collaboration. Dave Shoutlz recently launched his own AutoCAD business to automate design work for local manufacturers. The Rockford entrepreneur toured the EIGERlab’s new home — it was previously housed in northwest Rockford — and is excited about the possibilities it poses for his startup business.

“AutoCAD automation has so many possibilities,” he said. “There’s a lot of opportunities in Rockford. What used to take four hours to engineer can now be done in four minutes. Right now I’m working out of my house. The possibility of using this space — I’m excited about that.”

The array of services offered at EIGERlab is extensive, said its director, Dan Cataldi.

“In this space, we are continuing the EIGERlab tradition and expanding it by building an energetic ecosystem of soloprenuers, early stage product-based growth companies and existing private business owners,” he said. “Entrepreneurs can access business coaching mentors, investor networks and anything else to accelerate the commercialization of their business ideas.”

Isaac Guerrero: 815-987-1361;; @isaac_rrs

Get engaged at EIGERlab

The Northern Illinois University EIGERlab, 8500 E. State St., hosts monthly meetups for entrepreneurs and interested members of the public. Future topics will include product development, 3-D prototyping/printing and business coaching. For a schedule of offerings and for more information about EIGERlab, call the resource center at 815-753-2192 or contact Director Dan Cataldi at dcataldi@eigerlab or Marketing Coordinator/Business Development Coordinator Sherry Pritz at spritz@eigerlab.

Click here for the complete article and photos.

NIU EIGERlab Opens New Co-Working Space for Entrepreneurs

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

ROCKFORD (WIFR) — It’s been 20 years since Northern Illinois University began welcoming hundreds of thousands of students and community members to their Rockford campus for classes, meetings, gatherings, and special events. As part of the celebration, the university is launching the NIU EIGERlab co-working space.

EIGERlab is a Rockford business accelerator, acquired by NIU from the Rockford Area Development Council last year.

The NIU EIGERlab serves the region with business acceleration and product development services.

Now, businesses and community members can use the space at the NIU-Rockford facility on East State Street.

Entrepreneurs will be able to access coaching, ask mentors questions, and get the resources necessary to expand their ideas.

President of NIU, Douglas Baker, says, “The EIGERlab is really an innovation center that will help entrepreneurs start their businesses from idea, all the way to actually running the business. So we provide both equipment, as well as the mentoring for both the technical and business side.”

“Whether we talk about sewing machines in the early days or fasteners, or aerospace, Rockford has always been a manufacturing community that has reinvented itself, explains Dan Cataldi, the Executive Director of NIU EIGERlab. “This hub is going to continue to allow us to be on the leading edge of innovation for physical and digital products.”

The co-working space is located at the NIU-Rockford facility on East State St. The NIU EIGERlab Center for Product Development is on Zenith Parkway in Loves Park. That’s where the manufacturing machines and 3-D printing technologies are located. Click here to view WIFR’s coverage.

Revolution in Rockford: DMDII launches new Rockford chapter

Monday, November 9th, 2015

Click here for WREX’s coverage.

UI Labs to open DMDII branch in Rockford

Monday, November 9th, 2015

UI Labs said Monday it will expand beyond Chicago’s Goose Island, putting a regional chapter of its Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute in Rockford, an aerospace manufacturing hub.

It is the first outpost for the public-private partnership that works with government, industry and academia on research and development initiatives. The organization said it plans to open a second chapter in the Quad Cities soon.

“We will rely on this relationship to take the digital technologies developed from DMDII projects into the workplaces of small- and medium-sized manufacturers across this community,” UI Labs CEOCaralynn Nowinski Collens ⇒ said in a statement. She credited Northern Illinois University’s Office for Regional Engagement with helping to create the regional chapter. “This first chapter will be the basis of the many chapters that will open from coast to coast.”

The company said it seeks to give Illinois companies access to leading manufacturing solutions in a statewide economic revitalization effort, as with the Illinois Manufacturing Lab, run in partnership with the University of Illinois.

Northern Illinois University will lead the new chapter. Partners include the Rockford Area Economic Development Council, the Rockford Area Aerospace Network and the Rockford Chamber of Commerce Manufacturers Council.

The DMDII is funded by a $70 million federal grant from the Department of Defense and $250 million in private sector, academic and local government funding. Corporate partners include Rolls-Royce, General Electric and Procter & Gamble. UI Labs will employ 50 by the end of the year, Collens recently told Blue Sky Innovation.

Click here for the complete article and photos.

Digital Manufacturing Chapter Opening in Rockford

Monday, November 9th, 2015

ROCKFORD (WIFR) — Rockford is the first city to be chosen as a digital manufacturing hub.

A new program in Rockford is attempting to revolutionize manufacturing nationwide.

“I see this as the next coming of the Industrial Revolution, and it’s starting right here in Rockford,” says Congresswoman Cheri Bustos.

With over 700 manufacturing companies in the Rockford region, a new program hopes to use the existing local resources to help digitize American manufacturing, or the idea of having the data flowing through machines throughout the entire manufacturing process, increasing efficiency.

“This is a momentous day for Rockford, Illinois,” continues Bustos.

A momentous day because the program is setting the stage for future expansion and will help position Rockford as a global leader in advanced manufacturing.

The Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII) is partnering with NIU to open it’s first chapter in Rockford.

The program will connect companies, like Woodward, with advanced tools and help train workers and students for new jobs created by the digital manufacturing revolution.

Senator Dick Durban adds, “I don’t just want America to lead in manufacturing. I want Illinois to lead, and I want Rockford to continue to lead. That’s what we’re doing here, to initiate an effort into the next generation of thinking, manufacturing technology, and the next generation of jobs.”

“What we’re about is creating manufacturing, technology dominance, that will help communities attract more jobs because they’re going to be competitive as they adopt these technologies,” says Dean Bartles, Chief Manufacturing Officer for UI Labs and Executive Director of DMDII.

Bartles says manufacturing dominance is important for five reasons: national security, the country’s economy, trade competitiveness, dominance in national innovation, and dominance in battlefield technology.

Partners that have already signed on include Rockford Area Economic Development Council, Rockford Area Aerospace Network, and the Rockford Chamber of Commerce Manufacturer’s Council.

Senator Durbin says the chapter will bring millions of dollars back to the state and benefit the local community by preparing for tomorrow’s jobs.

Bustos agrees, “”I think this community should be very proud of that, that of all the regions of IL and all the regions in the Midwest and all the regions in the country, this digital manufacturing lab chose Rockford as its very first hub. That means there’s trust in this community, we know that we’ve got one of the best workforce in the world, we’re well prepared for this next generation, the next industrial revolution.”

Click here for WIFR’s coverage.

Premier Midwest research lab taps Rockford and Northern Illinois University to advance digital manufacturing

Monday, November 9th, 2015

ROCKFORD — A premier Midwest research lab will partner with small- and medium-sized manufacturers in the Rockford area to foster digital innovation aimed at reinventing U.S. manufacturing.

A partnership among Rockford companies, Northern Illinois University’s EIGERlab and the Chicago-based Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute was announced at a 10 a.m. news conference today at NIU-Rockford, 8500 E. State St.

Sen. Dick Durbin, Rep. Cheri Bustos and NIU President Doug Baker discussed how the EIGERlabresearch center will help Rockford area manufacturers further the efforts of the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute.

The high-tech lab opened in 2014 on Goose Island in the Chicago River with $70 million in federal funding and $250 million in commitments from stalwarts of U.S. manufacturing, including Caterpillar, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Electric, John Deere and Procter & Gamble. The lab encourages factories across America to deploy digital manufacturing and design technologies, so those factories can become more efficient and cost-competitive.

“What we’re doing today is about tomorrow’s jobs,” said Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat.

“People who come to (Rockford) for the first time quickly realize what a dynamic environment we have here for aerospace and manufacturing and innovation,” he said. “And as great as the city of Chicago is and as proud as I am to represent Chicago, we have to move this conversation about manufacturing innovation beyond Chicago to downstate Illinois, to communities that are not normally part of this conversation. Rockford was the first community that came to mind.”

Rockford is a natural fit to serve as a key spoke of the Chicago lab’s high-tech innovation. There are nearly 700 manufacturers in the Rockford area, which has a rich industrial history. Today, Rockford’s gravitational pull encompasses aerospace, hydraulics and advanced manufacturing activity. In an effort to grow engineering talent locally, Rock Valley College and NIU announced a partnership this year that will allow Rock Valley students to earn an NIU engineering degree at the Rockford community college without having to travel to DeKalb.

In addition to the digital-manufacturing lab in Chicago, the federal government also has set up manufacturing innovation hubs during the past four years in Youngstown, Ohio, to advance 3-D printing; in the Detroit region to develop lightweight materials and technology; and at North Carolina State University in Centennial to engineer smaller, faster and more efficient power electronics. Additional specialty labs are planned.

NIU’s Office for Regional Engagement, led by Vice President Rena Cotsones, helped build the pilot partnership involving the university, the Chicago lab and regional manufacturers. The effort is also an outgrowth of the strategy for the Illinois Manufacturing Lab, a partnership between the University of Illinois and UI LABS, to deliver advanced manufacturing solutions to Illinois companies while providing a collaborative platform to revitalize regional economies.

Click here for the complete article and photos.

NIU EIGERlab September 2015 Newsletter

Monday, October 19th, 2015

You’re invited! Good Morning Rockford! Event | News Conference

Please join us to celebrate 20 years of education, partnerships and innovation at NIU-Rockford, Tuesday, November 10, 7:30 a.m., 8500 East State Street

Stay with us until 9 a.m. for a news conference revealing exciting updates about NIU EIGERlab. 

  • Rockford Chamber of Commerce Good Morning Rockford! Event
  • Grand opening and tours of NIU EIGERlab CoWorking space
  • Highlights of 20 years of NIU engagement in the Rockford area
  • Remarks by NIU President Douglas Baker
  • Networking and refreshments

RSVP to to let us know you’ll be there!

2015_ EigerlabNIU_horiz_3clr




Introducing Innovation Tuesdays

Starting on November 10th, NIU EIGERlab will host a monthly

Innovation Tuesday meetup. November’s Internet of Things related topic is
“Creating Apps in the Cloud” presented in collaboration with IBM.


The goals are to bring together innovative, like-minded entrepreneurs and business owners from the region and provide them with an outlet to meet, learn and network. The ideal environment within which sharing and learning can flourish and complement the knowledge base for all.

Please join us at the NIU-Rockford campus where we’ll connect with NIU DeKalb (video conferencing) for an evening of learning and coding in the cloud with Umang Shah walking us through creating apps in the cloud. Umang Shah is an IBM Cloud Technical Architect with several years of experience as a software developer and architect. He has a strong history in the financial and insurance industry working with some of the nation’s top corporations. He lives in Chicago and supports several clients in the Midwest.

When: Tuesday, November 10, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Location: NIU EIGERlab’s CoWorking Space located at NIU-Rockford, 8500 E. State St.

This presentation will be co-presented simultaneously at NIU-Rockford and on NIU’s main campus in DeKalb.

No cost. Please RSVP by phoning 815.316.6357 or

Click here for the complete newsletter 2015_SeptemberNIUEIGERlabNewsletter

New NIU EIGERlab Facilities

Monday, October 5th, 2015

Center will support businesses, entrepreneurs

Click here for WREX, Channel 13’s link regarding coverage of NIU EIGERlab’s two new facilities.


NIU EIGERlab August 2015 Newsletter

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

NIU EIGERlab’s new spaces: CoWorking Space, NIU-Rockford
Center for Product Development, Zenith Parkway 

Innovate | Accelerate | Commercialize


NIU EIGERlab has moved to its two new locations:
NIU EIGERlab, CoWorking Space, 8500 E. State St., Rockford, IL 61108
NIU EIGERlab, 5299 Zenith Parkway, Loves Park, IL 61111

NIU EIGERlab’s CoWorking Space
The purpose and focus of this space is to promote an energetic ecosystem for solopreneurs and early stage, product-based growth companies. Instead of toiling alone in your garage, basement or Starbucks, join NIU EIGERlab’s CoWorking Program where entrepreneurs can access business coaching, mentors, investor networks, product-based project management, CAD design and 3D printing to accelerate the commercialization of your business ideas-inspiring inventiveness and imagination.


NIU EIGERlab’s Center for Product Development
The purpose and focus of this space is to serve the region with leading edge business, engineering and project management support services. Manufacturing, art, engineering, urban design…you name it, we can be of assistance. Our functional additive manufacturing or 3D printing capabilities encompass the technology to first, transform your thoughts into computer models and second, covert those models to physical objects. In addition, we’ll be introducing certification courses for 3D printer technicians this fall.



If you are in search of a space for your business, NIU EIGERlab can assist with two convenient locations. Membership levels include a choice of: common CoWorking space, dedicated cubicles or semiprivate accommodations. All memberships include a discount on business support coaching and business and product development programming. In addition, both locations have conference rooms which can accommodate client meetings. For pricing, please visit our website. We welcome you to visit either location to determine which one may suit your needs.


To learn more about NIU EIGERlab’s CoWorking Space, call Sherry Pritz at 815.316.6357. To learn more about NIU EIGERlab’s Center for Product Development, call Tina Leombruni at 815.965.3522.


Land | Launch | Learn | Grow

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