RAEDC Chairman: Rockford Region is ready to ‘Rockforward!’ to top 25 status

 Sagar Patel photo cropped

ROCKFORD, Aug. 16 — Sagar Patel, Chairman of the Board of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council, wrote a guest column for the Rockford Register Star to share our organization’s strategic plan process and energy moving forward.

It can be found here and in full below.

The Rockford Region is ready to “Rockforward!” to top 25 status.

Momentum is growing, as is the pride that goes with it. This community is being recognized nationally for its assets. Many organizations, including the Rockford Area Economic Development Council, are focusing on how to build their strengths for a better future.

RAEDC has a major role to play in the region’s success — cultivating opportunities for job growth.
We expect to meet or exceed our goals for the three-year Rockforward2! strategic plan wrapping up in December. Economic conditions have improved significantly over the past several years. Moving forward, how do we attract and grow world-class employers?

In 2015, we began a new strategic planning process to craft the vision, mission, strategies and tactics that will lead our organization through the next five years.

To determine our region’s emerging needs and most relevant priorities, we listened to many voices. We sought deep, diverse input from all stakeholders. We started this past spring by interviewing more than 70 business and community leaders.

This summer, we held six visioning sessions for further engagement and alignment with the community and partner organizations. We chose this transparent and public process, facilitated by Transform Rockford, to gain insight, support and trust. We appreciate the dialogue from the more than 160 investors, partners, external experts and concerned citizens who attended.

Paired with other exercises (including an organizational SWOT analysis and asset mapping), this feedback is guiding the RAEDC Executive Committee and staff in drafting its strategic plan.

Input from this wide group is important. In order to contribute effectively and positively to the region’s transformation, we had to leave our comfort zone and examine all suggestions.

Many organizations are tackling our region’s challenges. Working together in a public-private partnership, everyone and everything comes together. A unified vision forges regional alignment and cooperation to achieve progress. And a larger geographic area provides the scale needed to be competitive.

Our region already has a lot to offer:
— Proximity to Chicago, without the congestion
— World-class air, interstate and rail logistics
— Airport with tremendous potential
— Robust manufacturing supply chain and culture
— Access to talent and educational institutions
— Affordable cost of living
— High level of cultural amenities
— Regional pull as a health care leader
— A revitalized downtown that’s buzzing with excitement

So what’s the next step? We invite investors, partners, stakeholders, community organizations and people interested in our mission to attend a Stakeholder Review and Feedback Session for the draft of our strategic plan.

The event is from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 26 at the Prairie Street Brewhouse in Rockford. RSVP to Teri Johnson at tjohnson@rockfordil.com or call 815.969.4261.

We are excited to share this new plan shaped by many voices. A new strategic plan and bold regional leadership can build upon the region’s assets and spark innovation for a brighter future.

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