To Grow in Aerospace

RAEDC establishes specialty groups like RAAN

RAAN Leadership
Gerald Sagona & Khoi Vu

The Rockford Area Aerospace Network (RAAN) is a consortium of companies implementing a strategic plan to increase the competitiveness of the Rockford Region for aerospace expansion and attraction.

The Rockford Region is home to four aerospace tier-one companies and more than 250 suppliers within a 90-minute radius.

Gerald “Jerry” Sagona, who is the RAAN staff liaison, notes that it was formed in 2008 as a response to a Targeted Industry Study from Carter & Burgess in 2006, as well as the Northern Illinois University (NIU) Aerospace Study of Winnebago County in 2007. Members came together with a common purpose to support the growth of companies in the aerospace industry.  Now, RAAN attends and sends delegations to events like the Orlando MRO Americas Conference, NBAA, and the Paris Air Show.

Members include AS9100 and Nadcap certified suppliers of electric power generation systems, power management, actuation systems, metal component fabrication, aircraft interior manufacturing, and maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO).

This aerospace network extends to a partnership with the Illinois Defense Network (IDN) through the RAEDC. In 2017 the RAEDC obtained a grant that substantially offset AS9100 Revision D Internal Auditor training fees for 12 small and medium-size manufacturers in the Rockford Region. Many companies working in aerospace have limited resources and have reported an increase in training, regulations, and certifications required to do business in the industry.

The Rockford Region, just northwest of Chicago, is the largest center of aerospace production employment in Illinois and sixth in the United States.

RAAN’s focus is on six initiatives that address the industry’s greatest needs:

  1. Enhancing the global brand of Rockford as Your Opportunity Region.
  2. Fostering innovation through industry and cross-industry synergies.
  3. Encouraging supplier development through growing awareness of requirements and continuous improvement.
  4. Expanding business development opportunities through matchmaking and sales missions.
  5. Increasing the focus on workforce development that feeds the pipeline at all levels and disciplines for industry growth.
  6. Growing the size and diversity of our cluster by attracting new companies to establish operations in the Rockford Region.

Driven by private industry, members of RAAN meet regularly to discuss collaboration opportunities related to business climate, innovation, technology, and workforce development.

“Though collaboration and a strong aerospace network, RAAN is designed to continuously strengthen our region’s supply-chain and foster a sustainable aerospace cluster. This will benefit not only GE Aviation; but to other companies within the Rockford Region and beyond,” says Khoi Vu, Sr. Product Leader, GE Aviation and RAAN chair.

Examples of how the RAAN group works together include national/international trade show participation, supplier symposiums, networking opportunities, educational and vocational partnerships and initiatives, marketing efforts, and training and information-sharing.

Brent Johnson and his company, Midwest Aero Support Inc., have been a member of RAAN for many years. He says, “my company has obtained a big benefit by being able to attend the Paris Air Show and the Farnborough Air Show in England. Attendance previous to RAAN was out of our price range.”

RAAN has scheduled the third annual Aerospace Symposium & Networking event on Thursday, April 26 at Giovanni’s in Rockford. This is an opportunity to connect with Tier-1 suppliers and manufacturers and learn about the latest Innovations happening in aerospace. Sponsorship and exhibition opportunities are available.

Tara Cook of American Precision Assemblers, Inc. and the B2B Coordinator for RAAN, is enthusiastic about the upcoming symposium. She says “there were over 100 companies last year and the event has grown each year. Tier-one companies attend and suppliers are able to network with these larger companies with common goals to grow in the aerospace industry.”

To join RAAN, contact the RAEDC for details – or 815-987-8118.

By JAC, RAEDC Correspondent