The first small industrial enterprises were founded in Irkutsk in the late XVII - first half XVIII of centuries. These were the mills, forges, breweries, leather-processing and soap-boiling centers. In 1747 on the left coast of Angara at the mouth of the Irkut river a town dweller Prokofiev founded two small manufactures. The fist one was a glass manufacture, producing green glass tableware, and the latter was a silk-weaving one, where a dress and different clothes were woven from the Chinese silk. In 1755 the merchant Glasunov got silk factory, which had belonged to the Moscow merchant Mamontov earlier. In connection with the opening of the silk-weaving manufacture in Irkutsk the special decree of the Manufacture-board was issued, recommending the owner to produce “… shawls and tapes with the best skills". Comparatively significant industrial enterprises were outside the city. In 1791 “the glass factory" was considered to be the main industrial enterprise of Irkutsk. In 1799 beyond the small river Ushakovka the state Craft house was opened, where the exiled people worked. The workers were engaged in different crafts: blacksmith work, house-painting, carriage, furniture, copper, gilding, turning, metalworking, tailor work. In 1810 there were cloth, linen, hat manufactures, 2 candle, 13 leather-processing and 10 soap-boiling factories in Irkutsk.
Since the 1830s gold-mining industry began to develop. It became one of the main branches of the local economy. Large merchants: the Basnins, the Sibiryakovs, the Trapeznikovs, the Bazanovs, the Gromovs, the Butins and others had gold mines in the Yenisei, Lena-Vitim, Olyokminsk, Western-Baikal and Nerchinsk mountain districts. There were several obstacles to the Siberian industry development. These were bad conditions of means of communication, remoteness from the large centers, which adversely complicated and made the delivery of machines and equipment for the local enterprises more expensive. On the Siberian territory there was not any machine-building industry.
In 1870 the Siberian writer М.V.Zagoskin wrote in the book "Irkutsk and Irkutsk region (guberniya)”:
"There are not enough manufactures and factories in Irkutsk. The most part of the goods is brought from Russia. 92 manufactures and factories are considered to be in Irkutsk; the largest number of them is cigarette with a cardboard holder factories; then brick, soap-boiling and candle factories follow; a factory one is faience. Some manufactures are not present, for example, stearin. All others are in the most unsatisfactory condition. Machine manufacture was introduced only in 1865 at one of the brick factories".
The realization of the Siberian railway revived the Siberian industry, but did not liquidate industrial - economic backwardness of the territory.
In 1914 there were 24 small enterprises of factory type (iron and metalwork, sawmill, brick, tanning, vodka, brewery factories, steam flour-milling, printing house) in Irkutsk and some fine craft workshops were registered.
The political events of October, 1917 and the Civil war resulted in decline of Irkutsk industry. Many enterprises were closed because of raw materials absence. Due to the new economic politics (NEP) by 1928 the condition of economy Irkutsk region had approached a pre-Revolutionary level.
Rapid development the electrical techniques, continuous process of electrification of the national economy of the country in the pre-war years showed a great demand for mica. The Irkutsk region took the leading place on the reserves of mica in our country. The production of raw mica and local mica-processing industry were being developed in the city; one of largest in the country mica factory was opened in Irkutsk.
Coal-mining increase, mica industry, growth of gold production brought a demand for the mountain equipment, which caused the metal-working enterprises construction in Irkutsk. On the basis of former wagon trail workshops in 1929 the construction of the factory of heavy mechanical engineering named after V.V.Kuibyshev, was begun. It was the first factory of this kind in the city. Mechanical shop, open-hearth furnace, mechanical constructions shop, mechanical assembly and instrumental shops were introduced step by step. The second large enterprise of the metal-working industry of Irkutsk became a mechanical factory.
The second leading industry of Irkutsk was light. The leather-processing factory named after Marat worked in the city. Mechanical shoe factory, knitted goods, roll-felted, sewing factory worked in the city.
Food-processing industry successfully developed in Irkutsk. The old enterprises were being reconstructed, the new ones were being introduced in manufacture. In 1935 the macaroni and tea-processing factories began to work.
Before the Great Patriotic war the construction of a Irkutsk air factory began.
The years of that war subordinated all country industry to the needs of defense.
The large role in economic development of the post-war Irkutsk and the region was taken by the Conference on study of the Irkutsk region productive forces, held in 1947. This conference opened an essentially new stage of industrial development of region.
Since the 1950s the large-scale industrialization began in the region,. In this period the modern industrial shape of Irkutsk was formed.
The industry of modern Irkutsk is represented in single regional complex by such branches, as color metallurgy, mechanical engineering, electrical power, light and food industry, construction materials production, airbuilding, ship-repairing and air-repairing industries.
The color metallurgy is a base one in the Irkutsk region economy. Not far from Irkutsk, in Shelikhov, the Irkutsk aluminum factory (IrkAZ) is located. It is the first of the aluminum industry in East Siberia. The basic product of the factory, 85 % of which exported to the countries of Europe, Asia, America, is aluminum and its alloys.
Irkutsk is the oldest and largest center of a machine-building industry of area. The city has almost all developed kinds mechanical engineering and metal working, represented in the region. The machine-building complex of Irkutsk unites air industrial association, factory of heavy mechanical engineering, industrial association "East", factory "Standard", relay, cable, machine-tool constructing factories.
The Irkutsk air industrial association, besides plane production, renders a wide complex of services for other enterprises and branches of region. It produces stereotyped equipment, cast iron, steel and color metals and the complex configuration products. The Irkutsk factory of heavy mechanical engineering and has kept the specialization: the gold-mining industry equipment, black and color metallurgy. The factory is mastering new concentrating equipment which has received the name "Camomile" (Romashka). In the long term the factory can let out steel designs for the pavilions of stops of urban transport, simple agricultural engineering, welded designs for LEP and etc. Industrial association "East" (former factory of radioreceivers), keeping the former specialization, masters output of fire-extinguishing equipment. Within the framework of conversion at the Irkutsk relay factory it is supposed to organize the output of electric motors of low power for complex home appliances. The Irkutsk machine-tool constructing factory specializes on the output of turning-screw cutting machine tools.
The Irkutsk region belongs to large regions with the most advanced hunting - trade economy. The greatest importance was received by a fur (pelt) craft.
The joint-stock company "Irkutsk furniture" is one of seven largest industrial enterprises of the regional a timber industry complex. The building industry in Irkutsk is represented by the only firm in all East Siberia - АООТ "Irkutsk ceramic factory", producing firm high-quality brick on the western technologies.
Irkutsk is the most important centre of food and light industries of the region. The city has such large enterprises in Eastern Siberia, as the butter-fat combine with its production, known not only in the region, but also in European Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia, the meat combine, several bread bakeries, macaroni, confectioner's shop and tea-processing factories, brewery, liquor-vodka enterprise "Cedar". Most significant enterprises of the light industry - "Irkutsk wholesale trade" JSC, sewing factory "Vid" JSC.