The Rockford Area Aerospace Network (RAAN), a part of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC) hosted the RAAN Aerospace Symposium on April 23rd. The event works to strengthen ties within the aerospace and advanced manufacturing industries in the mid-west.
This year the symposium offered eight educational topics ranging from workforce development from a company growing by 10x to cybersecurity and the impact it has on obtaining Department of Defense contracts.
Jim Bridenstine, Administrator for NASA was the keynote speaker and highlighted the path forward for NASA including sustainability and putting American Astronauts in an American Ship and launching from American soil for the first time since 2011. Bridenstine also discussed how the future of aerospace will be commercialized and that small aerospace companies will continue to contribute to the innovation happening in the industry.
“I was pleased to attend the RAAN Aerospace Symposium with Aerospace leaders from across the great state of Illinois. NASA is going forward to the Moon to stay, and our industry partners in Illinois are critical to helping us achieve that mission,” mentions Jim Bridenstine, Administrator of the National Air and Space Administration (NASA).
Also taking the stage was special guest, Congressman Adam Kinzinger (IL 16th District). Congressman Kinzinger established the connection between Jim Bridenstine and the RAAN Aerospace Symposium organizers. The Congressman referenced the impact NASA has on an entire generation who aspired to create and innovate in the fields of math and science which has led to a reinvigoration of the aerospace field.
“Thank you to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine for his time this week, and to the RAAN and RAEDC for putting on such a successful event. It was an honor to welcome my friend and former colleague to the Rockford area. As we discussed at the event, there is great potential here in Rockford for job growth through our innovation and advancements in manufacturing and aviation. By bringing together over 200 manufacturers, suppliers, developers, and visionaries, this event further renewed the interest and enthusiasm for expanding our aerospace program, and helped highlight the opportunities right here in our communities,” states Congressman Adam Kinzinger (IL 16thDistrict).
More than 230 people attended the full-day event featuring 38 exhibitors which included educational institutions, service providers, and of course manufacturers from both inside and outside of the Rockford Region. For the first time, the RAAN Aerospace Symposium offered matchmaking sessions, allowing companies to connect with Collins Aerospace, GE Aviation, and Woodward, Inc. The matchmaking and connection development are things the organizers are focusing on and working to expand for next year.
“To see the connections made during this event tells us that we are headed in the right direction. Our region has been an aerospace powerhouse for years and it is good to know that we are continuing to grow and shape the future of advanced manufacturing. The best part is seeing the event grow from a small, afternoon networking event into a full-fledged conference next year,” says Nathan Bryant, president & CEO of the RAEDC.
The RAEDC thanks Platinum Sponsors; Collins Aerospace, GE Aviation, and Woodward, Inc., and Gold Sponsors; American Standard Circuits, Armoloy of Illinois, Clinkenbeard, Cyient, Diablo Furnaces, and EC Solutions.