Regional Business Organizations Form Partnership to Combine Resources and Fast-Track Goals

The Greater Rockford Growth Partnership – that’s the name of a new organization that has long-term implications for the future success of our region.

Partnership - Unification - RAEDC - Rockford Chamber

For two years, members of the boards of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC) and the Rockford Chamber of Commerce (Rockford Chamber) have worked to unify their organizations under the same roof with a common voice for business in the region.

Board members of both organizations joined forces to develop values and goals for the new “umbrella” partnership under which the RAEDC and Chamber will retain their individual organizational status. The Greater Rockford Growth Partnership will align the organizations toward the goal of making the Rockford region the number one mid-sized market in the nation for a strong workforce, innovative companies, business start-ups and leadership development.

“Our consultant, Ernst & Young, tells us what we began doing two years ago has quickly become national best practice, and we are on the leading edge of that,” said Committee Co-Chair, Jeff Hultman. “Our research and evaluation looked at ten models for unification of Chambers and Economic Development organizations nationwide. In studying those, the state of the Rockford region, and where we want to go as a community moving forward, we know now is the time to unify to ensure our community’s success.”

Nearby cities are following the trend. St. Louis just announced the unification of five community groups, and the Quad Cities recently moved its economic development council together with its chamber.

In working together under one partnership organization, the RAEDC and Rockford Chamber will retain their separate boards and individual focus. The Chamber will support existing businesses through leadership, education, networking, advocacy and community pride, while the RAEDC will focus on growing businesses in the region through attraction, retention, expansion, innovation and promotion to external markets.

As a new organization, The Greater Rockford Growth Partnership will work with the RAEDC and Rockford Chamber to ensure strategies, goals and decisions work best for both organizations and for the region as a whole. The organization will make sure both large and small businesses benefit and will actively coordinate with other regional groups and the public sector to support and grow businesses in Northern Illinois.

Under the plan, the Rockford Chamber and RAEDC will formally establish the Greater Rockford Growth Partnership as a 501c6 non-profit and begin the initial implementation steps in the first quarter of 2021, progressing throughout the year so that everything is in place and operational for 2022.

“The time is now. The pandemic accelerated the unification process in communities across the country, putting those who had already done it at a distinct advantage,” said Co-Chair Terry Voskuil. “Indianapolis, for example, was able to cross-train its partnership organization’s staff to provide support for small businesses hit hard by the pandemic. The Greater Topeka Partnership set up a small business emergency resource fund and secured more than $1 million in relief funding from private sector leaders that was distributed to 285 small businesses to keep them going. This is the kind of action possible when organizations are aligned.”

“The structure will be set up to encourage and accommodate other organizations to join the Greater Rockford Growth Partnership, working together to grow our region,” Hultman said.

Greater Rockford Growth Partnership oversees and aligns the goals of its member organizations in taking bold action to create the most vibrant, innovative, thriving economy of any mid-sized region in the nation. 

Rockford Area Economic Development Council markets the region to attract new capital investment while assisting existing businesses with resources for sustainable growth. It works with partners to improve the competitiveness of the region in the daily work of economic development and serves as the area’s data collection agency on capital investment, new and retained jobs, and new or renovated space.

Rockford Chamber of Commerce delivers benefits to the community by leading in the promotion of economic growth, advocating for the interests of business, and providing service and educational opportunities that help its members grow.