Leadership Council Invests 2016 Emerging Opportunities Fund in Reputation and Recruitment

RACVB logoROCKFORD, IL — The Rockford Area Economic Development Council’s Leadership Council met April 29 to appropriate its 2016 Emerging Opportunities Fund to managing the region’s reputation online.


John Groh, President and CEO of the Rockford Area Convention & Visitor Bureau (RACVB) submitted a project, which requested $75,000 to manage the Rockford Region’s Reputation & Recruitment: via online and external media & influencers .

“RACVB is grateful to the Leadership Council for the opportunity to work alongside our colleagues at RAEDC and others in the community to enhance our region’s reputation – internally and externally. Our region is experiencing an exciting time of progress, growth and transformation and we look forward to implementing new ways of telling this story locally and beyond,” said John Groh, President/CEO of the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. 

The RACVB will utilize the funds for reputation and recruitment efforts online for the Rockford Region. Efforts will focus on how to get the good news and information about our region to rise to the top – online, in external media outlets, and with key influencers. Efforts will be deployed to ensure that positive and balanced information is available in order highlight the progress and momentum the region is experiencing. Managing the regional reputation online will also help local companies secure talented employees who in turn will help grow local businesses and advance our economy.

“Each year for the past eight years, the Leadership Council of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council has funded projects which support the region’s capacity to grow. $1.2 MM has been invested in a variety of projects focusing on education, renewable energy and marketing the area,” states Mike Nicholas, President of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council. “Through these investments, the Leadership Council has had a profound impact on the region’s destiny.”

The outlined areas for online reputation management and recruitment include:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Drive online traffic to regional civic sector websites through the use of key words most often used when searching “Rockford.” Key words include combinations such as Rockford + Real Estate, Housing, Schools, Household Income, Crime, etc.
  • Paid Search/Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – Drive online traffic to civic sector websites but with the added boost of advertising behind key search terms.
  • Online Retargeting – Allow Rockford to stay “top of mind”. These efforts target consumers that show interest in Rockford. Online display advertising will be “retargeted” to display on websites visited by individuals who have visited partner websites.
  • Social Media Marketing – Social networks (e.g, Facebook and Instagram) provide a powerful platform to target unique market segments, age-ranges, interests, hobbies, and direct zip codes allowing positive information to spread quickly and strategically.
  • Media Outreach/Focused PR – Good information can rise to the top in the media, but often needs a boost – especially when you are not top of mind, as is the case with the Rockford Region in external media markets.
  • Influencer Education/Awareness – Quarterly education/outreach with local Realtors® and HR professionals will include the development and delivery of materials (print/electronic/video) that tell the region’s improving story and can be passed along to the consumer (homebuyers, relocating employees, etc.).

The expected returns on investment include:

  • Short-term:
    • Earned media and the incremental increase in perception of the region
    • Increase support from regional associations and organizations
    • Increase opportunities to raise money to ensure long-term initiative sustainability
  • Long-term:
    • Rockford Region will become a winning team which translates to people who want to live, work, play and invest on our team.


The goals of Rockforward20/20 are 10,500 new and retained jobs, 8 million square feet of new or renovated space, and $925 million in capital investments for the Rockford Region by 2020. These will be accomplished by focusing on five primary initiatives: Trailblaze, Inspire Action, Align, Seed, Serve, and investment of the Emerging Opportunities Fund. The RAEDC Board of Directors oversees the strategies, and the Leadership Council manages the Emerging Opportunities Fund.

The Emerging Opportunities Fund is designed for discretionary investment in mutually agreed-upon, forward-thinking initiatives that will leverage positive change for economic development of the Rockford Region.


2008 – 2015 INVESTMENTS

2008 $50,000 Rockford Charter School Initiative
2008 $75,000 Rockford Area Career Clearinghouse
2008 $50,000 Freedom Field – Solar Thermal Heating and   Thermal Heating and Cooling
2009 $75,000 Rock River Development Partnership
2009 $90,400 Freedom Field – Solar Thermal Heating   Thermal Heating and Cooling
2010 $60,000 Alignment Rockford
2010 $115,000 Federal Government Affairs Advocate
2011 $175,000 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Attraction
2012 $175,000 Alignment Rockford: High School Redesign
2013 $175,000 Alignment Rockford: Advancing Teaching & Learning -Building Business Partnerships
2014 $75,000 Design & Production Makerspace Lab & Partner Network
2015 $125,000 Business Attraction Marketing
TOTAL $1,240,400 EOF Invested in the Rockford Region


INVESTORSThe following RAEDC Rockforward20/20 investors currently serve on the Leadership Council:

Accuride Wheel End Solutions Edward Bledsoe
Alpine Bank Bill Roop
BMO Harris Bank N.A. Michele Petrie
City of Loves Park Mayor Darryl F. Lindberg or Daniel G. Jacobson
City of Rockford Mayor Lawrence J. Morrissey or James R. Ryan
ComEd George Gaulrapp
Fehr Graham Mick Gronewold or Joel Zirkle 
First Northern Credit Union Edward C. Berg or John Pick
GE Aviation Khoi Vu  or Susan Downs
Greater Rockford Airport Authority Jeff Polsean
Illinois Bank & Trust Jeffrey Hultman
JP Morgan Chase Jeff Layng
Larson & Darby Group John Saunders
MercyRockford Health System Dan Parod or Doug Brooks
Northern Illinois Building Contractors Assoc. David Anspaugh
Northwestern Illinois Contractors Assoc. Glen Turpoff or Nate Howard
OrthoIllinois Don Schreiner or Lynn Pratt
OSF HealthCare David Schertz
PCI Pharma Services Medrick Rainbow or Justin Schroeder
Ringland -Johnson, Inc. Brent Johnson
Rock River Water Reclamation District Tim Hanson
Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau John Groh
Rockford Area REALTORS Steve Bois
Rockford Bank & Trust Jim Hansberry or Thomas Budd
Rockford Chamber of Commerce Einar Forsman
Rockford Park District Tim Dimke
Rockford Public Schools Ehren Jarrett
Rockford Register Star Paul Gaier
RSM US LLP Denise Sasse
Sjostrom & Sons, Inc. Joel Sjostrom
SPX Hydraulic Technologies Tim Schramm
SwedishAmerican Health System Dr. Bill Gorski
UTC Aerospace Systems Stan Kottke or Bob Guirl
Village of Machesney Park Mayor Jerry Bolin, Tim Savage or James Richter II
Williams-Manny, Inc. Dan Ross
Winnebago County Chairman Scott H. Christiansen
Woodward, Inc. Sagar Patel
WREX-TV John Chadwick


The role of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC) is to collaborate with regional stakeholders to cultivate opportunities for primary job growth that increase the economic well-being of our region. The RAEDC markets the region to attract new capital investment, while assisting existing business with resources for sustainable growth. The RAEDC works closely with many partners to improve the competitiveness of the region by taking what it learns from the region’s employers and engaging the community in the daily work of economic development. As the economic development organization for the region, the RAEDC also serves as the area’s data collection agency on all new capital investment, retained and created quality jobs, and renovated commercial/industrial space.


Jimsi Kuborn, VP of Investor Relations


Erin Marshall, Communications & Marketing Coordinator