Rockford Register Star’s Our View:
You’ve got to believe that Rockford can have a robust economy
The Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC) is pleased to forward to you our investors, partners, and stakeholders, this recent editorial piece from the Rockford Register Star. We too share Nathan’s confidence in the Rockford Region, and reaffirm our vision to propel our region to top 25 status, as the model for impactful economic development in partnership with regional organizations and all of our valued stakeholders.
Nathan Bryant had plenty of options before taking the job as president and CEO of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council.
He had a solid record as president of development at Spring Creek Development Group and could have kept that job. He is a licensed professional engineer and real estate broker and could have pursued the opportunities those credentials provide him.
Instead, he took on the often thankless job of working with private and public partners to guide the region’s economic development. Why?
“I believe in Rockford,” he told the Editorial Board during a recent visit.
Bryant believes Rockford can create jobs that pay well enough to support a family. He believes his work with RAEDC will increase economic opportunities throughout the region and he believes that Rockford can become a top 25 community by 2025.
We share his confidence.
However, it will require a lot of hard work to get there. Bryant and his team are collecting as much data as possible so that they can make informed decisions. Collecting data will not excite the general public, but it’s important to understand where the region is before determining how best to move forward.
Bryant wants “sticky” jobs – in other words, jobs that stick in the community for many years. This region’s unemployment rate is regularly higher than the state and national averages so the jobs Bryant envisions will mitigate the wild swings we’ve seen in unemployment rates.
Rockford hit bottom in 1982 and 1983 when it led the country with record unemployment, which soared as high as 25 percent. Unemployment in Winnebago and Boone counties stood at 11.1 percent in January, compared with 8.4 percent in January 2016. Rockford’s unemployment rate was the highest for any metropolitan area in Illinois.
The numbers were skewed by layoffs at the Fiat Chrysler Belvidere Assembly Plant. Fiat Chrysler laid off 4,100 employees in January to begin a five-month retooling for the upcoming production of the Jeep Cherokee.
The automotive industry, of course, is a big job creator in the region. It’s not just Fiat Chrysler, it’s the many businesses that supply parts to the assembly plant.
Aerospace, with companies such as Woodward Inc. and United Technologies Corp., and advanced manufacturing offer opportunities to build on local success.
Throw in logistics, health care, hydraulics and customer service call centers and there’s a lot for the RAEDC team to work with.
In 1980, a number of Rockford industries, in conjunction with the Rockford Area Chamber of Commerce, gathered to form a Council of 100. The council’s mission was to improve the local business climate, attract new businesses and encourage local businesses to stay.
The organization has evolved in the 37 years since. In 2005, it became the Rockford Area Economic Development Council, a name more fitting to its purpose.
What hasn’t changed since 1980 is the desire to make Rockford a better place to run or bring a business.
Rockford has a great location, a skilled workforce and plenty of quality-of-life amenities for the businesses of the 21st century.