Last month USA Today ranked Rockford, IL as the 6th fastest growing market for housing across the U.S. via data that encompassed 180 metropolitan areas looking at home price changes and unemployment rates. Rockford, IL (metropolitan area) data utilized by USA Today showed a 15.1% change in home sale prices over last year and June 2016 unemployment rate of 6.7%. This ranking is not from one isolated factor.
Almost every week I am challenged by naysayers, and I understand that we must look at the entire picture – the positives and the opportunities for more. And the more IS important for improvement and continued growth; however we should also recognize that this type of ranking makes sense based on the multiple existing strategies within our community. Below are just a few to consider.
Did you know that 70 – 80% of the business and job growth that occurs in our region is by existing employers? Our local businesses are growing and competing globally. Our strong clusters such as aerospace, advanced manufacturing and healthcare are making record breaking investments in facilities, products, and services and also adding employees to implement that growth. A majority of the $1.5 – $2 Billion currently being invested in our community is by businesses that have a presence in the area.
In economic development, business attraction efforts are core mission activities. The RAEDC is one of the region’s sales teams, promoting the region outside of the region to recruit businesses here, in turn creating more jobs. Some examples of outside companies investing here because of efforts from all economic partners are AAR Corp, Taurus 80, ABX, All World Machinery Supply, Meijer’s, to name a few companies new to our region.
Our MSA (Winnebago and Boone Counties) unemployment rate is slowly declining, coming in around 7% at the end of 2015 and 6.3% as of July 2016. Jobs are continually being added, there are nearly 5,000 openings in the Northern Illinois region. The job openings today and the ones of tomorrow need to link effectively into education. Educational investments are occurring at all levels. Look at the amount of capital and time being invested in our school districts and post-secondary educational institutions. There are large-scale facility expansions, curriculum expansions at all stages, and curricula changes to focus on employer/workforce needs.
Homes are selling. The number of days a home is on the market has shortened, the stock is shrinking, and the average prices are rising. The average sales price is at $124,000, which is 4.4% higher than last year (with a three month rolling average), and an overall 8 – 9% increase year over year in the MLS (which represents Winnebago, Boone and parts of Ogle County).
According to the Illinois Department of Commerce’s Office of Tourism, tourism in the Rockford area continues to see a 3 % increase over the prior year’s record setting numbers and the tax revenue from tourism has increased 6% over last year.
Infrastructure, roads, and the Chicago Rockford International Airport have seen investments as well. Investments have been on the local level and with IDOT’s expenditures on I-90; these types of expenditures enable the region to compete on the top- 5 major asset desired by site selectors and developers. The Chicago Rockford International Airport investments encompass facilities, runway and the new maintenance repair and overhaul facility for growth in air cargo.
PERSPECTIVE! When you look at other communities across the state or other states, each one has assets and opportunities for improvement. When you read a national news source that Rockford, IL made a top-ten list again, remember the interwoven efforts occurring amongst our organizations, municipalities, and companies. These undertakings demonstrate the recent momentum and exponential value of collaboration in strategies and investments. The voice has changed. We will continue to grow the Rockford Region’s reputation as an Opportunity Region where people want to live, work, play, and invest.
This article also appeared in the September 2016 edition of The Voice.