ROCKFORD, April 29, 2015 — Businesses in the Rockford Region feel significantly more positive about education and quality of life. That’s a key finding from the 2014 Voice of the Customer survey of 75 businesses, conducted by the Rockford Area Economic Development Council.
This is not just a one-time “feel-good” evaluation. The RAEDC has confidentially collected data from more than 900 companies since 2004 to better understand and help improve the business climate, and the Voice of the Customer program’s credibility has been validated by national awards. (All reports can be found at www.rockfordil.com/VoiceOfTheCustomer.)
The Rockford Region has been consistently lauded for its attractive low cost of living and proximity to Chicago.
What’s new: Perceptions about quality of life, education and community leadership — a challenge in attracting talent here – have improved dramatically over the past four years:
“These improvements reflect the momentum that has built in the Rockford Region, but our work is not done in this area,” said Terrance Hall, international trade and business development specialist at the RAEDC. “We need to double down on our efforts. We must continue to support initiatives that boost education, downtown development and safety.”
Better feelings about education likely stem from the transformation taking place since Rockford Public Schools began rolling out its five Readiness Rocks initiatives in 2011, in partnership with Alignment Rockford, to create a district that is first class in achievement and pride.
The high school redesign, meant to ensure graduates are better prepared for college and the workforce, is a visible example. Sophomores now choose one of the following academies: Business, Arts, Modern World Languages and Information Technology (BAMIT); Engineering, Manufacturing, Industrial and Trades Technology (EMITT); Health Sciences (HS); or Human and Public Services (HPS).
Attendance and high school graduation rates have started to edge up as a result, and last fall, Rockford was named a Ford Next Generation Learning Community, one of just 17 communities in the nation to receive the distinction for innovation from the Ford Motor Company Fund. RPS 205 strives to become a Model Community by 2016, so Rockford can host visitors from other communities hoping to start career academies in their schools
If you have not seen the changes for yourself, follow the Our Kids Rock campaign with the hashtag #ourkidsrock. Or volunteer with Judy Gustafson, College and Career Readiness Academy Coach, 815-874-9536 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
How you can participate