Nearly 800 business and community leaders celebrated the region’s momentum and looked ahead to an even brighter economic future at tonight’s Rockford Area Economic Development Council’s 2016 Annual Meeting and Dinner.
David Storch, Chairman, President, and, Chief Executive Officer of AAR Corp presented the evening’s keynote address. During his speech, he reflected how the community came together to ensure the maintenance, repair, and overhaul facility was completed on time despite possible funding challenges. Storch also highlighted how the facility, located at the Chicago Rockford International Airport, has and will continue to positively impact the economy and education system in the Rockford Region.
Some repair work, which was slated to take place elsewhere, was recently conducted at the new MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul) facility. AAR Corp. also hosted a two-day job fair this week, providing opportunities for qualified candidates to begin filling the 500 competitive-paying jobs. Some of the initial candidates will come from Rock Valley College’s Aviation Maintenance Technology Program (A&P Program), which is also located at the Chicago Rockford International Airport. The RVC program will continue to supply the workforce pipeline for AAR and other advanced manufactures in our community looking for qualified technically trained employees.
Michele Petrie, Senior Vice President of BMO Harris N.A. and incoming Chairman of the Board for the RAEDC began by thanking Sagar Patel of Woodward, Inc., for his service as Chairman of the Board for the past two years. Petrie then spoke about her plans for the next two years, which includes narrowing the RAEDC’s focus on execution, prioritization, and results. “We will go from processing opportunities that happen to land in our region to actively searching for companies we want to attract, as well as actively facilitating deals and growth opportunities with companies already here. Best in Class results occur when you take action by building on the successes of the past while executing in a modern, disciplined way” states Petrie. A priority outlined in Petrie’s plan is to ensure the RAEDC, Rockford Chamber of Commerce, and the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (RACVB), in addition to many other community stakeholders continue to work closely together to create efficiency and ensure the community leaps forward toward top 25 status.
Creating this path forward has already begun, with the launch of the Rockforward20/20 strategic plan earlier this year, which established the region’s economic growth goals for the next five years, as well as the RAEDC’s mission to cultivate opportunities for primary job growth. It embraces the many economic opportunities in our region and will carry forward the momentum from Rockforward2!.
RAEDC President Mike Nicholas mentioned in his closing remarks that during meetings with more than 200 business leaders in the Rockford Region, some have expressed the opinion that the best days of the region are behind us, while others are optimistic for the future of the region and see the innovation in many of the region’s clusters. Nicholas then provided a few of the many examples demonstrating the high level of innovation happening in the area.
The highlighted companies during Nicholas’ speaking points have more than a proprietary product or service, they bundle them with other unique capabilities, and more importantly continually re-invest in their workforce and continuing education opportunities for employees. The deciding factor for companies evaluating the region for potential expansion or relocation will be the quality and availability of workforce. The Rockford Region is developing both of those through the alignment of business needs with educational curriculum.
Nicholas believes, “There is a new generation of innovators and inventors among us. As a result, the best days of the Rockford Region are ahead of us.”
Recap of the Rockforward20/20 Goals
|Rockforward20/20 Measurements||10 Month Progress||Five Year Goal|
|New and Retained Jobs||969||10,500|
|Capital Investment||$572,074,952||$925 million|
|New or Renovated Space||1,231,655 SQ FT||8 million|
RAEDC ANNUAL MEETING EVENT SPONSORS
Keynote Presenting Sponsor
Baker Tilly, First Northern Credit Union, Greenlee, Mercyhealth, Meridian, Nicor Gas, PCI Pharma Services, SwedishAmerican Health System, Venture One Real Estate, Woodward, Inc.
Supporting Sponsor: ComEd
ROCKFORWARD! PRESIDENTS CIRCLE INVESTORS
Alpine Bank, City of Loves Park, City of Rockford, Comcast Business, ComEd, Fehr Graham, First Midwest Group, Inc., JP Morgan Chase, Larson & Darby Group, Mercyhealth, Mid-West Family Broadcasting, Northern Illinois Building, Contractors Association, Northwestern Illinois Contractors Association, OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center, Rockford Area REALTORS, Rockford Public Schools, Rockford Register Star, SwedishAmerican Health System, UTC Aerospace Systems, Village of Machesney Park, WIFR-TV, Winnebago County, Woodward, Inc., WQRF TV / WTVO TV, WREX