Big Shoulders: Haven Allen, Executive Director, mHub Chicago

| Adam J. Hecktman

Anyone who says that manufacturing is a 20th century industry has never been to mHub in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood. A bewildering 63,000 square foot space that houses the community that is creating breakthrough products, boosting the local economy through physical manufacturing, and laying the foundation for a new manufacturing workforce. To quote mHub, they foster connections between local manufacturers, university researchers and Chicago’s entrepreneurial community of makers and technologists, not to mention investors who are eager to support new businesses.

The physical space is sensory overload. There is ample equipment to help startup manufacturers build and leverage electronics, plastic fabrication, metals, textiles and rapid prototyping. An entrepreneur with an idea for a physical product can use this “microfactory” for small production runs without the major capital outlays required to build a plant from scratch. Add to that the community and support you get from the mHub staff and other entrepreneurs and you have a formula for the next wave of Chicago’s manufacturing.

And lest you think it is all business, I recently spent a weekend at mHub watching students compete in a robotics competition. While the event space was filled with students prepping their inventions for battle in a ring, the manufacturing space was filled with parents and children building creations to compete at the Hebocon (an ugly robot contest…I actually found many of the robots endearing).

Haven Allen is the Executive Director and co-founder. An entrepreneur himself, Haven was an economic development strategist at World Business Chicago, the mayor’s economic arm. Spend ten minutes with him and you realize that this is a guy that, for all his humility, knows a lot of stuff. He spent time in the Peace Corps, the publishing industry, and owned his own business. He found time to get a Policy masters at the University of Michigan, and a Political Science degree from the University of Illinois. Here, he talks to me about his current passion, building the next generation of physical product manufacturers.

Watch Adam’s chat with Haven Allen live on

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Adam J. Hecktman

You may recognize Adam. He’s a regular on TV, you can hear him on the radio, he’s penned numerous articles and is the co-founder of the Chicago City Data Users Group. But some of Adam’s most important work is done behind the scenes in his role as Microsoft’s Director of Technology and Civic Engagement for Chicago. Tech giants, universities and government leaders turn to Adam for guidance on all matters technology, and he happily obliges, helping Chicago overcome challenges and capitalizing on new, exciting opportunities.